Architectsâ€™ Role in Development: Analysis of City-Wide Slum Improvement Projects from Bangladesh Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning 2015-2016 KU Leuven
Author: Emerald Upoma Baidya (r0477832) Promotor: Lieven De Cauter
Gratitude I would like to thank my family for loving and supporting me, my friends for believing in me, my teachers, fellow community architects for their inspiration, and the communities I have worked with for they have offered me so many insights about life. I am grateful to Lieven De Cauter for his constant encouragement and delightful insights, and Frank Moulaert for his caring and careful guidance. I am also grateful to professors, colleagues and officials of MaHS/MaUSP for they have assisted me, challenged me and helped me grow in the past two years. Last but not the least, I am thankful to the practitioners and authors across the world whose insights and demonstrations on development is continuously motivating me.
Table of Contents When Architects must trespass Architecture; a story of transformation.............................................................................6 Context of Bangladesh..............................................................12 Objective of Research............................................................14 Position and Agency of Researcher........................................14 Methodology...............................................................................15
Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project, Comilla
1.1. Project concept ...............................................................20 1.2. Selection of communities...............................................24 1.3. Reflection on community Selection Process..............27 1.4. Context of Comilla ..........................................................31 1.5. Project activities on the Field..........................................31 1.5.1 Financial mechanism........................................................35 1.5.2 Infrastructure and housing design.............................37 1.6. Disputes among stakeholders........................................37 1.7. Final reflections on the case.........................................38
2. City-Wide Housing Project, Jhenaidah 2.1. Project concept..............................................................40 2.2. The support group........................................................42 2.3. Context of Jhenaidah......................................................45 2.4. Selection of communities...............................................45 2.4.1. Mohishakundu Shordarpara Community: the place and its people.............................................................................47 2.5. Community based savings...........................................50 2.6. Design with/by community...........................................51 2.7. Networking among communities..................................53 2.8. Learning from and reaching out to institutions........56 2.9. Impacting governance with local actions....................58 2.10. Knowledge is power, but is it really? - Devolution of power among experts as a critical tool.................................58
2.11. Power disputes and the gender issues.....................61 2.12. Final reflections on the case.........................................63
3. An attempt to find answers from cross-disciplinary theoretical analysis 3.1. Architects’ role in development....................................64 3.2. Inclusive planning approaches.........................................66 3.2.1. Strategic spatial planning................................................67 3.2.2. Social innovation.............................................................67 3.2.3. Social construction of planning...................................68 3.3. The dilemma of power in the field.................................69 3.4. Understanding development in terms of actors and networks.....................................................................................70 3.5. “Unslumming and Slumming”, what makes people go the extra mile for changing their situation?.........................72 3.6. Innovative learning in socio-technical transformation................................................................................................73 3.7. Post-political development, a reflection on consensus building practices........................................................................74
Table of Figures Figure 1: Locating ‘inclusive architecture’ projects in different places of Bangladesh. (Author)…...........................................................................................................7 Figure 2: Illustration of living condition in slum before project intervention at JBM slum. (Abonee, 2014)............................................................................................8 Figure 3: Illustration of improved condition after slum upgradation project at JBM community. (Abonee, 2014)................................................................................8 Figure 4: Image of LEEDO Transition shelter. As a part of an ongoing reasearch on street chidren in Sadarghat, Paraa in collaboration with LEEDO has built this shelter for 25 children to provide them with food, health and education facilities (Paraa, 2016)................................................................................................................10
Figure 24: Shortlisting communities UPPR leaders (NHA, 2014)........................27 Figure 25: Activities during town visits (Selection criteria, Prezi).......................27 Figure 26: Shortlisted communities in different wards of Comilla. (NHA, 2014) .......................................................................................................................................29 Figure 27: Figure 27: A poster by POCAA promoting pond-facing urbanization as opposed to current practice of using the city ponds as “backs”. (NHA, 2014) .......................................................................................................................................29 Figure 28: A poster by POCAA promoting collective effort in infrastructure development (NHA, 2014)........................................................................................29
Figure 5: The interior of the shelter is designed with/by the street children. (Paraa, 2016)................................................................................................................10
Figure 29: A poster promoting by POCAA promoting walkability of river banks (NHA, 2014)................................................................................................................29
Figure 6: A map showing the proximity of children’s working/living places to unsafe areas (Paraa, 2016).........................................................................................10
Figure 30: Comilla, a city full of ponds......................................................................30
Figure 7: Discussing housing development with Aila affected community in Shatkhira (Kabir, 2013)...............................................................................................10
Figure 32: Moulobhipara Baburchibari community................................................30
Figure 31: Skyline of Comilla city..............................................................................30
Figure 8: Elevated houses for affected families. the family use the space on the ground floor in a flexible manner (Kabir, 2013)......................................................11
Figure 33: Project briefing at Shongraish community. (NHA, 2014)....................32
Figure 9: An earthen house in Shatkhira whose veranda was used for schooling drop-out children. Ghorami.Jon was to rebuilt the structure so that the new school is more resitant to extreme weather conditions. Shatkhira, located in the coastal area, is vulnerable to cyclones etc (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)........................11
Figure 35: Community visit in Shongraish (NHA, 2014).......................................32
Figure 10: The new school structure was designed by Ghorami.Jon in a way so that strong wind during cyclones etc. can pass through the structure- thus minimizing the vulnerability of the structure. Wooden columns were replaced by concrete posts (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)...................................................................11 Figure 11: The interior of the new structure allows more sunlight and provides with more space for the classes (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)...........................................11
Figure 34: Knowing about households through Participatory Rapid Appraisal. (NHA, 2014)................................................................................................................32
Figure 36: Mapping with Moulobhipara community. (NHA, 2014)......................33 Figure 37: Completed community map of Moulobhipara (NHA, 2014)..............33 . Figure 38: Dream Community workshop with children in Shongraish (NHA, 2014)..............................................................................................................................33 Figure 39: Consulting design with a site model in Moulobhipara (NHA, 2014)...33
Figure 12: Bangladesh in world map..........................................................................12
Figure 40: Financial mechanism of PPSIP (Author).................................................31
Figure 13: Map of Bangladesh.....................................................................................12 . Figure 14: Korail, the biggest slum in Bangladesh...................................................14
Figure 41: Financial mechanism of CHDF (Bertilsson, 2013)................................31
Figure 15: Barrack like settlements of a slum resettlement project...................14
Figure 42: Different housing options developed by POCAA (NHA, 2014)...........36
Figure 16: Slum dwellers struggle everyday without proper infrastructural support.........................................................................................................................14
Figure 43: Infrastructure layout for Moulobhiparaa community (NHA, 2014)....36
Figure 41: Financial mechanism of Baan Mankong Project (Skinner, 2014)............31
Figure 17: A recently built planned slum in Dinajpur (Author)............................14
Figure 44: Tentative timeline of City-wide Housing Project, Jhinaidah (Author) ........................................................................................................................................41
Figure 18: Timeline of research (Author)................................................................14
Figure 45: Structure of city-wide network and its relation with external institutions (Reprinted from Alam,2016)............................................................................43
Figure 19: My position as a researcher presented with a timeline .....................14 Figure 20: Tentative timeline of Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project. (Author)....21 Figure 21: PPSIP designed as an extension to UPPRP initiatives (NHA, 2014).....23
Figure 46: Image of central market in Jhinaidah. (Author)....................................44 Figure 47: Nabaganga river, Jhinaidah. (Author).....................................................44
Figure 22: Actors in PPSIP (Author)........................................................................25
Figure 48: Location of the first five communities in the city-wide network of Jhenaidah. (Alam, 2016)..............................................................................................46
Figure 23: Shortlisting communities with ward councillor (NHA, 2014)...............27
Figure 49: A usual day at Mohishakundu community; the access street is a place 3
of gathering. (Author)...............................................................................................48 Figure 50: Kutcha (temporary) houses in Moohishakundu neighborhood (Author)......................................................................................................................48 Figure 51: Women and children using communal water taps (Author)............48 Figure 52: A usual day at Mohishakundu community (Alam, 2016)...................48 Figure 53: A local resident in Arappur Daspara community making basket. Most people in the poor communities of Jhenaidah earn their living on small crafts (Author)...........................................................................................................49 Figure 54: Community meeting in the temple yard (Alam, 2016)......................49 Figure 55: The community people in Arappur Daspara uses nearby open spaces for several purposes such as, drying clothes, preparing baskets (Author).......49 Figure 56: The community first started with making a mental map of relative positions of the households; the map gradually evolved with more information on it; such as, size and position of houses, secondary structures, infrastructure etc. (Farzana, 2016)...................................................................................................52 Figure 57: While mapping, the women expressed that prayer corners, plants and animal sheds are also important part of their households (Farzana, 2016) ......................................................................................................................................52 Figure 58: After mapping, the community measured their plots and structures to prepare a measured drawing with the help of architects (Farzana, 2016)....52 Figure 59: A project participant from Mohishakundu community explain the design of her ‘dream house’ to the community (Farzana, 2016)........................54 Figure 60: Community women with models of their ‘dream houses’ (Farzana, 2016)............................................................................................................................54 Figure 61: Design prototypes by the communuty architects (Farzana, 2016)....54 Figure 62: Architect Farzana explaining a design prototype to the community (Farzana, 2016)..........................................................................................................54 Figure 63: Community people are treating bamboo themselves. They have took part in the construction process in order to save labor cost (Masud, 2016)....53 Figure 64: A new house in Mohishakundu. The windows and doors are yet to be completed. (Farzana, 2016)......................................................................................53 Figure 65: With better houses, people have more places not only for themselves, but for plants, animals etc. (Author)......................................................................55 Figure 66: Prayer corner set in an under-construction house of a Hindu family in Mohishakundu. The new personal spaces that started to emerge as soon as the houses were usable, show the sense of pride in community households. (Farzana, 2016)...........................................................................................................55 Figure 67: Women of Mohishakundu community explaining savings mechanism to women in Shoshanpara community (Alam, 2016)............................................57 Figure 68: Community women sharing about the project with BRAC University students (Masud, 2016).............................................................................................57 Figure 69: Women in Mohishakundu community reading about similar ACHR projects (Alam,2016).................................................................................................57 Figure 70: Mayor of Jhinaidah visiting Mohishakundu community to learn about the project (Farzana, 2016)......................................................................................57
Figure 71: Diagrammatic representation of relationship among city-wide network, external technical assistance and local government in the beginning of project (Adapted from Alam 2016)....................................................................59 Figure 72: Diagrammatic representation of projected relationship among citywide network, external technical assistance and local government in later stages of the project (Adapted from Alam, 2016)................................................59 Figure 73: Diagrammatic representation of selection of theories (Author)......65
List of Abbreviations ACHR: Asian Coalition of Housing Rights ACCA: Asian Coalition of Community Action BIGD: BRAC Institute of Governance Studies CAN: Community Architects’ Network CWHP: City-wide Housing Project JBM: Jogen Babur Math NGO: Non- Governmental Organization POCAA: Platform of Community Artisans and Architects PPSIP: Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project SAFE: Simple Action for the Environment UPPR: Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction
Abstract Mass urbanization is the present and the future of many developing countries in the global south, and Bangladesh is not an exception. Rapid urbanization has put significant strain on cities and towns of Bangladesh. Housing is predominantly developed by the private market in Bangladeshi cities and the market is usually very much driven by profit. A large portion of the population cannot avail even the worst quality housing available in the market; that is when the illegal settlements or slums come in the picture. There are around 50,000 illegal and low income settlements in Bangladeshâ€™s 29 largest municipalities. Poor housing materials, limited access to public services, densely crowded and unsanitary living conditions, lack of tenure security etc. are some characteristic problems of these settlements. The government has attempted several slum integration projects since the past few years. Spatial professionals are also trying to address this problem through communitydriven housing and infrastructure development initiatives. The research attempts to define how these development initiatives are driven by a multitude of socio-relational dynamics and what role are architects playing to shape these dynamics.
When architects must trespass architecture: a story of transformation
â€œActivists step in where the state has abdicated its responsibility and where the market sees too little profitâ€? - Justin McGuirk (McGuirk, 2014) The global culture of Architecture has been gradually changing since the past years- while the iconic buildings have been the central source of attention in the discipline of architecture, architecture for marginalized has also made its place in discussions since the 1960s- thanks to several theoretician and practitioners across the globe; such as, John Turner, Nabeel Hamdi, Perween Rehman, Paul Pholeros and so on- who have relentlessly attempted to incorporate the alternative practice into the mainstream practice. They have paved the way for next generations of architects/planners to think and act in order to address socio-economic marginalization, to see architecture as a social act, instead of only technical and aesthetic. In recent times, curricula at architecture schools are also more attuned to social architecture. This shift in architecture practice is also visible in Bangladesh. I call this practice inclusive architecture as it is a response to socio-economic exclusion of the marginalized group of people. Regardless of what practitioners themselves call it, the practice of inclusive architecture is emerging in Bangladesh in different forms and different places; in the form of different kind of projects and processes. The main objective is the same; to assist disadvantaged individuals and groups in changing their own living condition; and to do this by valorizing local knowledge and resources. From Pro Bono architects/planners, volunteers, local builders promoting vernacular architecture, local NGOs, alternative discourses in architecture schools; to the communities who believe in the collective change making process- are creating examples of how architecture can help the poor. The context of inclusive architecture practice where a huge chunk of population in village and cities is living in extreme poverty, vulnerable to disasters and suffer from dire lack of proper housing, infrastructure etc. and is offered almost no resources from the market or government, the
Figure 1: Locating â€˜inclusive architectureâ€™ projects in different places of Bangladesh. (Source: Author)
Figure 2: Illustration of living condition in slum before project intervention at JBM slum. (Source: Abonee)
Figure 3: Illustration of improved condition after upgradation project at JBM community. This project is a started as a collaboration between SAFE and UNDP, but eventually the fund available from UNDP was barely enough to implement the project. With engagement from external consultants, SAFE eventually built 10 new houses in 2011. This resulted in major improvement in the community cohesiveness and living environment in JBM. Currently, in a collaboration with AzuKO and external volunteers, SAFE is performing an infrastructure improvement project with the community. (Source: Abonee)
architect is not anymore a glorified professional. While more and more architects are trying to re-state and redefine their own professional identities and adapt to new challenges and learning new skills such as, networking for fund collection, social mobilization etc., more and more professionals from other fields and the beneficiaries themselves are empowered by the tools of architecture in this process. It is all about believing in multi-disciplinarity, learning from each other in unconventional ways. Participatory action functions as a central tool in this practice. The beneficiary community shares local knowledge with the experts and within itself, and maps their own reality, problems and solution with the help of experts. Experts provide technical assistance, create awareness in the community about its housing rights and needs, and mediate between community and external institutions that are otherwise out of reach of the community, and together they bring socio-spatial development. While different group of professionals may name their practices in different ways, I am using the term community architect from here on to denote the group of experts who employ their skills for the benefit of disadvantaged communities. The term, ‘community architecture’ was adopted by Community Architects Network (CAN). CAN was established in Thailand in 2010 and the network now has 27 groups comprising professionals who believe and work in community-driven projects; building houses, infrastructure, city-wide upgrading with participation of people. The meaning of this word is not too fixed in practice; basically meaning ‘an architect (or a spatial professional) working with communities’; the meaning also extends to ‘someone who builds the community’. A group of community architects can comprise of engineers, architects, social scientists/ researchers, academics etc. The scope and technical tools of work varies among different groups of community architects in Bangladesh. One organization worth mentioning is a NGO called SAFE (Simple Action for the Environment). Based in Dinajpur, a
district in north Bangladesh, SAFE was started around 2007 by a local builder and development professional Azit Roy, and since then with a small core group and a large pool of external volunteers (mainly engineering and architecture graduates from UK and Bangladesh) and consultants- have been associated with development projects in different places of Bangladesh. Promoting and developing indigenous/ natural building materials and construction techniques is a characteristic working method of SAFE. According to Azit Roy, SAFE prefers to promote and build with natural materials, because they are readily available, if one builds in the right way, s/he doesn’t have to spend money for maintenance for the next 15-20 years. He says that, poor people who live in village or have migrated from villages to the city are more used to build and live in these ways, but with modernization of building practices (using industrial brick etc.), these techniques and ways of living are getting lost; and if communities, builders and designers know use the right technology, they can easily build houses which are strong enough, cheaper to build and more eco-friendly (Roy, 2016). Another kind of professional group are architectural firms who are attempting to demonstrate alternative ways of practice. Many such practices start with the overwhelming realization by the founders that mainstream architecture cannot address the dire issue of poverty and marginalization. One such organization is Paraa(1). Started by two architecture graduates, Paraa is an architectural studio who work for the most vulnerable group of urban society (e.g. street children living precarious lives). Engaging the community is a central approach to their projects ; through engaging with communities and numerous other development organizations, they demonstrate how architecture begins way before designing and building a physical establishment; the architectural product is a only a manifestation of a multitude of social processes (Arefin, 2016) Another important issue in this discussion is the (1)
Paraa means ( a closely knit) neighborhood in Bangla 9
Figure 4: Image of LEEDO Transition shelter. As a part of an ongoing reasearch on street chidren in Sadarghat, Paraa in collaboration with LEEDO has built this shelter for 25 children to provide them with food, health and education facilities. (Paraa, 2016)
Figure 5: The interior of the shelter is designed with/by the street children (Paraa, 2016)
Figure 6: A map showing the proximity of childrenâ€™s working/living places to unsafe areas. (Paraa, 2016)
Figure 7: Disccuing housing development with Aila affected community in Shatkhira (Kabir, 2013)
Figure 8: Elevated houses for affected families. the family use the space on the ground floor in a flexible manner (Kabir, 2013)
Figure 9: An earthen house in Shatkhira whose veranda was used for schooling drop-out children. Ghorami.Jon was to rebuilt the structure so that the new school is more resitant to extreme weather conditions. Shatkhira, located in the coastal area, is vulnerable to cyclones etc. (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)
Figure 10: The new school structure was designed by Ghorami.Jon in a way so that strong wind during cyclones etc. can pass through the structurethus minimizing the vulnerability of the structure. Wooden columns were replaced by concrete posts. (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)
Figure 11: The interior of the new structure allows more sunlight and provides with more space for the classes. (Ghorami.Jon, 2016)
incorporation of inclusive school of thought into architecture schools. A couple of schools such as BRAC University, North South University etc. have been successfully arranging for students to study and assist disadvantaged communities as a part of their design and theoretical courses. This kind of exposure motivates young graduates to apply themselves in development projects. While organizations as SAFE , whose core strengths are local knowledge and community organization- have been pooling in spatial professionals from national and international platforms, architectural practices such as Paraa, Ghorami.Jon, POCAA etc. have been trying to strengthen their own skills of networking with aid and development organizations and learn by themselves how to work with communities. With all these efforts, architecture has finally started to reject serving only the rich one percent of the capitalist society; question the exclusive, heroic, glorified image that is associated with the practice of architecture; and demonstrate how architecture does not have to be only architects’ practice. However, this niche transformation- change of perception about design hardly satisfies these empath architects. They keep realizing the limitation of their capacity as it is extremely difficult to address the scale of the problem even with their best intent.
Context of Bangladesh “Slum dwellers build more housing every year than all of the governments and developers put together. UN Habitat estimates that by 2030 two billion people will be living in “informal” self built communities. Without the necessary infrastructure transport, running water and decent sanitation we are looking at the proliferation of ghettos on a vast scale.” - Justin McGruirk (McGuirk, 2014) Mass urbanization is the present and the future of many developing countries in the global south, and Bangladesh is not an exception. Bangladesh is a densely populated lower middle income country. While even some decades ago, the economy used to depend on agriculture mainly, with increase in urban based industries, the urban sector now contributes to over 70 percent of national GDP today. While national poverty reduced (from 49 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2010), the share of urban poor rose by seven percent between 1990 and 2010. (NHA, 2014). Rapid urbanization has put significant strain on cities and towns of Bangladesh. According to a 2009 study, around five million housing units are needed in Bangladesh to address the housing shortage, and unfortunately, a big chunk of population without adequate housing are from
Figure 12: Bangladesh in world map. 12
Figure 13: Map of Bangladesh.
the low income group. This housing shortage also results in rising cost of land and housing. Housing is predominantly developed by the private market in Bangladeshi cities and the market is usually very much driven by profit. A large portion of the population cannot avail even the worst quality housing available in the market; that is when the illegal settlements or slums come in the picture. There are around 50,000 low income settlements in Bangladeshâ€™s 29 largest municipalities. Poor housing materials, limited access to public services, densely crowded and unsanitary living conditions, lack of tenure security etc. are some characteristic problems in these settlements. These settlements lack healthy living environment that is necessary for well-being of adults and children. Often, because of tenure insecurity, slum inhabitants are not enthusiastic to improve their living condition and it is difficult to gain life prosperity in substandard living condition and continuous fear of eviction. In this scenario, even when individual households or a certain group in the community work hard enough and accomplish in their lives, they tend to move out of the settlements, leaving the settlement for other unfortunate families to fill in. (NHA, 2014). Bangladesh has made significant transformations in education, women empowerment and health for the poor.
But if the extreme poor continue to live precarious lives in slums, their overall quality of life will not improve no matter what. Slum eviction is a violation of basic human rights and it involves high social and economic costs. A number of alternative solutions to resettle or rehabilitate slum inhabitants have not been necessarily successful, e.g. Bhashantek Housing Project, Guchho Gram project etc. Moreover, the socio-economic situation is such that even if some government or public-private project facilitates rehabilitation, it is not uncommon that the rehabilitated slum dwellers sell or rent the new houses and return to slum settlements. However, the government has attempted to perform more integrated approaches to slum development with the help of international development organizations such as UNDP, UK Aid etc. UPPR (Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction) is such a project which runs in 21 cities of Bangladesh. In seven years until 2015, UPPR has successfully mobilized and empowered slum communities (especially the women) to develop their own savings, infrastructure etc. With UPPR, some communities have now started to also develop housing. PPSIP (ProPoor Slum Integration Project) started with an intention to expand UPPRâ€™s efforts with housing development. At the same time, some bottom-up efforts have also started to address the slum problem in city-scale; one such effort
Quick facts about Bangladesh Capital: Dhaka Area: Total 147,570 sq. km/ 56,977 sq. mi (92th in the wolrd) Geography: Mainly flat land Forest 17%, Hilly area 12% Population: 168,957,745 (8th in the world) Density: 1,033.5/sq. km 2,676.8/sq. mi (7th in the world) Official language: Bengali Ethnic groups: 98% Bengali, 2% other
Religion: 86.6% Islam (state religion) 12.1% Hinduism, 0.6% Buddhism, 0.4% Christianity 0.3% Others Formation: Separated as East-Bengal from British colonization on 14 August 1947, declared independence from Pakistan on 26 March 1971, recognized on 16 December 1971. Currency: Taka (BDT) (Source: CIA, 2016)
Figure 14: Korail, one the biggest slum in Bangladesh has grown side by side with the most posh neighborhood and business area of Dhaka. Retrieved from http://wikimapia.org/7618498/Korail-Bosti-Slum
Figure 15: Barrack like settlements of a slum resettlement project.
Figure 16: Slum dwellers struggle everyday without proper infrastructural support Retrieved from http://wikimapia.org/7618498/Korail-Bosti-Slum
Figure 17: A recently built planned slum in Dinajpur (Author)
is the City-Wide Housing Project in Jhenaidah. In this contemporary efforts, ACHR’s (Asian Coalition of Housing Rights) community-driven approach of development has been taken as a guiding principle.
Objective of research “Can a handful of socially conscientious architects even begin to address this situation?...though architects are well placed to be the mediators, they cannot merely operate as rogue loners or “rebels”. Nor can they be charity workers, doing bits of pro bono work on the side.” - Justin Mc Guirk (McGuirk, 2014) Even though community architects are playing a valuable role in reorienting the practice, in big-scale projects as citywide slum development efforts, they are facing challenges that they are often not prepared for- organisational challenges in large multi-disciplinary teams where power disputes hinder the flexibility to design. In such projects, architects must go beyond a set structure of architectclient relationship and establish working relationships between architect and communities, advocate for the community in order to strengthen institutional support and so on. With this research, I try to study and understand better these challenging socio-relational dynamics that are characteristic to such city-wide slum upgrading projects and what role the architects are playing in shaping these dynamics. With a developed understanding of theories from different disciplines, I have attempted to answer questions that challenges community architects’ capacities in city-wide slum-improvement projects. The central research question I try to answer with my analyses is, “What is the role of architects in city-wide slum upgrading projects in Bangladesh? and how can it be improved?”
My position as a researcher My motivations towards this research came from personal interest and inclination towards issues of urban poverty, especially since the last years of Undergraduate Studies in Architecture. I studied Bachelor of Architecture in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. For my Urban design studio during the 4th year study of B. Arch, I was exposed to the realities of the Korail Slum, the biggest slum in Dhaka, home to 175,000 people. This experience was especially insightful for me. I could realize the extended arena in which architectural skills can be used; to address the gravest socio-economic problem of my contextextreme poverty, lack of essential resources, and severe economic and social marginalization. After my graduation, I worked as a community architect in a city-wide slum development project (PPSIP) for five months. This work experience has exposed me to a dimension of organisational challenges that contested my expectations and skills as an architecture graduate. The brief professional experience in PPSIP was followed by my academic experience at master programs of KU Leuven; firstly Master of Human Settlements, and eventually Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning. The insights I gained with these programs about development in global South, inclusive planning etc. have been crucial in furthering my quest about inclusive architecture practice which started by engaging and working closely with teachers and colleagues in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, inclusive architecture practice was taking new directions in Bangladesh. The first step of my research was to discuss my ideas with former colleagues/ employers who are now involved in inclusive architecture practice with different projects in different places and visit some of these projects in Bangladesh. The research has thus developed as a way to reflect about my own questions related to inclusive architecture practice. 15
Methodology In this research I have analysed two city-wide slum development projects with the help of a theoretical understanding developed from cross-disciplinary literature review. The insights built from relevant literature study have functioned as tools to define, problematize and analyze the key issues of the research; in other words, I have found the language in which I can describe and focus on the problems that have concerned me as a part of this practice. This theoretical framework has been built by linking different fields of knowledge- architecture practice, planning, governance, urbanism, human geography and development studies. The cases chosen are of two different scale and approach. PPSIP (Pro Poor Slum Integration Project) is a top-down initiative with community participation as an important component in the project design. On the other hand, CWHP (City- wide Housing Project) is a more bottom-up approach where professionals have attempted to capacitate communities, and mediate between communities and local government. The contrast in scale and nature of initiation has offered me a scope to compare and look at issues at stake from different perspectives. It was important for me to understand and decode related stakeholdersâ€™ and project participantsâ€™ interest, capacity and enrolment in both cases in order to understand how socio-relational dynamics as opposed to technical procedures shape the projects and how they can be changed or modified in order to favour the beneficiary communities. For the first case (PPSIP), I have derived my insights and stances for the analysis of such dynamics from my five months long professional experience as a community architect in the project. Extensive report writing and journal keeping have helped me in making careful observations about how participatory processes are carried out, how community leaders respond to programs, or how professionals respond to communitiesâ€™ concerns and so on. Living and working with the co-workers in a 16
flexible setting also was a source of understanding their ethical positions as professionals. However, reflecting back on personal experiences from two years ago was not sufficient for me in order to build a structure of facts and perspectives. To fill in the missing pieces of information and confirm with personal perspectives, I made several skype interviews with my co-workers around May, 2016. These interviews were performed with the help of a preset questionnaire that I had sent the respondents beforehand. However, during the interviews, although the open-ended questions offered a frame, the discussions went on spontaneously. The interviews were crucial for me as those not only gave me information but strengthen my perspectives and also critically challenged my standpoints. My fieldwork in Bangladesh in February, 2016 comprised of two steps; building an atlas of people and places- trying to sketch-out a network of people who are involved in the practice, connect with them in order to brainstorm about relevant literature and the concept of this research, and through this network engage in one or more real projects for sometime. A number of discussions with former co-workers, professors in BRAC University helped me in conceptualizing the research and get access to some literature. I found two projects that was going on during my stay, the JBM infrastructure upgradation project in Dinajpur and CWHP in Jhenaidah. I stayed with SAFE, the local NGO for three weeks in Dinajpur and volunteered (producing site drawing, facilitating workshops) as an architect for the JBM project. Although, I have not eventually analysed the JBM project as one of my case studies, the activities in Dinajpur have helped me in developing knowledge about the working methods of SAFE and AzuKo and to gain important understanding about the network of practitioners. In order to construct knowledge on the second case study (CWHP), i visited the communities in Jhenaidah with the help of project architects and the local NGO
Alive. Community visits, interviewing locals and NGO representatives etc. helped me in building empirical understanding. The interviews performed in Jhenaidah were casual, without any structured questionnaire, Recording these interviews gave me the privilege to extract exact information from those later during the desk-research phase in Leuven. The NGO gave me access to documents regarding demographics of disadvantaged communities, survey results of household profiles, occupation, capacity and willingness of families to participate in project etc. A former colleague from PPSIP (Alam) was carrying out her master thesis research with these communities around the same time; sharing data and insights through frequent communication with her also facilitated my research process. A couple of published write-ups by project architect Farzana served as secondary sources for my research about this case.
Professional experience: Pro- Poor Slum Integration Project, Comilla 5 months, 2014
Volunteering: Community-led Infrastructure Improvement Project, Dinajpur
3 weeks, 2016
Project Visit City- wide Housing project, Jhinaidah
Desk-research in Leuven
3 days, 2016
7 months, 2016
discussion with architects, NGO
describe critique reflection literature study
discussions about savings, gender, leadership etc.
Figure 18: Timeline of research (Author) 17
Ajit Roy Founder NGO SAFE
Khandaker Hasibul Kabir Teacher at University
Ishita Alam Abonee Fellow learner at University
My involvement with community development projects in Bangladesh
Nazia Roushan Community Architect
Apu Roy NGO SAFE
Jo Ashbridge Founder AzuKo
personal reflection inspired by studying about urbanity of Dhaka, how to use architecture training in addressing urban poverty
4th year Urban Studio
Mahmuda Alam Community Architect
Cyrus Sohrab Khan Community Architect
Yasmin Ara Project Manager
Ishita Alam Abonee Community Architect
working for community development, the formal processes, conflicts of institution, questions about gender, the capacities of government and top-down processes...
bachelor thesis, vernacular architecture, use of indegenous building materials, rehabilitation know about capacities of local NGO SAFE
5th year Urban Studio
2013 Graduation Bachelor of Architecture
Figure 19: My position as a researcher presented with a timeline (Author) 18
Rubaiya Nasrin Community Architect
Apr, 2014 Community architect at PPSIP, Comilla
Apu Roy Project Manager NGO SAFE
ya Rufida Islam unity Architect
ey Farzana unity Architect
ker Hasibul Kabir nity Architect
realities of colonialism, deveolment architecture and planning in global south
Sept, 2014 MaHS
Jo Ashbridge Founder AzuKo
Mehede Masud Project Manager NGO ALIVE
Cyrus Sohrab Khan Community Architect
Suhailey Farzana Community Architect
Ishita Alam Abonee Community Architect
Khandaker Hasibul Kabir Community Architect
Inclusive planning Social Innovation Participatory design
Visit and informal interviews in City-wide neighborhood upgrading project, Jhinaidah Volunteer for 3 weeks in Community-led Infrastructure Improvement Project, Dinajpur Feb, 2016 Start Fieldwork for one month
Sept, 2015 MaUSP
Dec, 2015 Thesis Research
Sep, 2015 Projected end of thesis research
2016 Further research or 2016 Work as a cmmunity architect
1. Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project, Comilla
2.1. Project concept Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project or PPSIP started in 2014 and aims to complete implementation in 2021. The analysis of the case will firstly illustrate the thematic guideline of the project which is extracted from multiple reports (NHA, 2014) and then identify the complexities of implementation in the first several months of the pilot phase of the project. The objective of Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project is to improve shelter and living conditions in selected low income and informal settlements in a number of municipalities in Bangladesh. The project also aims to develop infrastructure, e.g. road, drainage etc. in these neighborhoods. An additional focus of this project is to introduce collaborative learning in poverty stricken urban areas with the means of Community Support Centers. The beneficiary communities and municipalities are selected through strategic steps and the project aims to scale up the development endeavours to additional municipalities in the future through demonstration.
Integration of policies The project reflects Bangladesh’s Seventh Five Year Plan. According to this, “specific priorities of housing development are: (i) enabling land markets to work efficiently; (ii) improving the mechanism for financing housing and (iii) encouraging participation of the private sector, community based organizations, and non-government organizations to participate in service provision, particularly through policies to support inclusion).” (Seventh Five Year Plan (FY16-20) , n.d.) The National Housing Policy (1993/2004) recognizes the rights of the inhabitants in slums and informal settlements. This further focuses on the development of alternative housing supply programs to address the needs of the economically marginalized group. The policy outlines several key principles to address this issue, this includes “(i) prioritize the urban poor to receive the advantages of housing programs where different prices will be offered 20
Commencement of project June, 2013
Shortlisting communities with community leaders, local NGOs, ward councilors
Selection of consultant groups Participatory Rapid Appraisal in eleven communitites Inception Workshop Community proﬁle
Design workshop with local builders, engineers from NHA Census Exercises with GIS database Co-ordination meetings with stakeholders for conﬂict resolution Research on land access, transfer etc.
City Visit Project activities in Moulobhipara and Shongraish March, 2014
Cost estimation of design prototypes
Discussion with local governments Project Brieﬁng
Collaboration with Jalal Ahmed Architects
Community mapping Consultation with site-model
Co-ordination meetings with stakeholders
Selection of ﬁrst ﬁve cities Meetings about ﬁnancial mechanism Design of houses, infrastructure, study of material cost Beginning project in Comilla December, 2013
Sharing success stories from other contexts
Project moving to Sirajgong December , 2014
Figure 20: Tentative timeline of Pro-Poor Slum Integration Project. (source: Author)
at the level of their affordability; (ii) develop suitable financial institutions and associated legal frameworks to mobilize funds for housing through personal savings and other financial inputs; and (iii) develop new strategies, and revisions to existing housing policies, over time to cope with the emerging housing needs in the country.â€? (Seventh Five Year Plan (FY16-20) , n.d.) The Government of Bangladesh has declared a commitment for Housing for All by 2021. Despite these commitments, to date in reality, few Government programs have effectively addressed housing shortages for the urban poor. (NHA, 2014) In order to implement housing development programs, the project also creates negotiations for improving building standards so that they fit to high density, low income areas.
Community driven approach This project is designed with a community-driven and people centered approach. It adopts the Asian Coalition for Community Action- ACCA approach practiced in different countries of South-east Asia. The approach is based on building funding capability within the community and empowering community people to improve their own living conditions. ACCA includes a people centered approach to slum upgrading, including tenure and housing rights. The first step is community mobilization and organizationgradually building social cohesion through collective action. ACCA then provides loans for larger housing projects and supports communities with architectural and planning assistance for site layout and design. ACCA donates five small project funds of US$ 15,000 for infrastructure projects, and big project fund of US$ 40,000 for housing improvement or major construction projects. This big and small funds goes to a city as a set of funds in order to make city-wide development. To go beyond single community based improvement, communities should be connected by networks so they can communicate and learn from groups facing similar situations. The solution comes through forming larger22
scale revolving funds; all involved communities take part in it â€“ these funds are called community development funds (CDFs) and they may operate at different levels: the district level, city level, provincially or even nationally. ACCA funds pass through a city level CDF (Community Development Fund) rather than going directly to the community. This CDFs can also be supplemented by a welfare fund and an insurance fund. CDF also serve as the institutionalization of community processes while it incorporates multiple different stakeholders, such as community members, academics, NGOs, and government officials. ACCA supports communities in acquiring formal land title through negotiated purchases, or securing land grants or long term leases through communication with land authorities. ACCA encourages the communities to develop their savings, so they can avail other sources of finance (e.g. Bank loans). Successful communities are linked with other communities on the city level which provides them the opportunity to learn from each otherâ€™s experiences, links city wide savings efforts and through this, communities feel empowered and connected. (ARCHER, 2012)
Partnership with UPPR The project is designed to work with cohesive community groups of UPPR, who already has a history of savings, and are experienced in planning and developing small scale infrastructure projects, e.g. neighbourhood road, toilets etc. Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction Project (UPPR) started in 2000 with organization and mobilization of the community, savings and livelihoods programs, and simple infrastructure development through community contracting with awards of small grants. Until now, in 21 different municipalities of the country, UPPR communities manage 30,000 primary groups organized under 2,588 community development committees. With community collaboration, they build community action plans to implement livelihood programs and basic infrastructure
development. Up to date, UPPR has over 5 million USD savings rotating among 26,000 community based savings and credit groups. UPPR started in many municipality an effort to control viability of community based lending products for housing, this is called Community Housing Development Funds (CHDF). The PPSIP project aims to broaden these operations with the means of housing and further infrastructure development.
Estimated risk The project proposes development by involving global technical experiences of community-driven development. This is a new approach for the World Bank Group and in the context of Bangladesh. The community organizations are indicated to be capable enough; but the project will require a coordination between government institutions controlling land, housing, infrastructure and financing. In the context of Bangladesh, this is going to be time consuming and bureaucratically difficult. The project is
designed to be started with limited interventions and develop with phases, thus allowing learning and monitoring and proactive adjustments. (NHA, 2014)
Institutional plurality The national-scale project draws on expertise and capacities from different institutions. The project fund (a total of USD 50 Million) is lent to Bangladesh Bank by International Development Association (IDA). In this project, the housing finance for the urban poor comes through community based lending models. That requires development of a number of tailored funding products (e.g., personal, joint liability, group guarantee etc.) with which households will get access to credits as qualified borrowers, the financial models are to be developed by Palli Karma Sayahak Foundation (PKSF). National Housing Authority (NHA) is responsible for employing technical consultants for environmental and social assessment and implementation of the project. For
Figure 21: PPSIP designed as an extension to UPPRP initiatives. (source: NHA, 2014)
the pilot phase of the project, NHA employed a number of institutions affiliated with BRAC University- C3ER (Climate Change and Environmental Research), BIGD (BRAC Institute for Governance and Development) and a group of architects and engineers who are associated with an informal platform named POCCA (Platform of Community Artisans and Architect).
1.2. Selection of communities The pilot phase of the project started with an aim to test feasibility of the project. This required selecting communities which will help the project to succeed in the pilot phase, so that the efforts can later be more or less replicated for the next communities and next towns. The selection of communities started with selection of towns. The selection of five towns was done through several phases; firstly, representatives from NHA, POCAA architects and the BIGD social researchers shortlisted 34 towns through an inception workshop. The towns were shortlisted on the criteria that the towns have population over 100,000. Dhaka (the capital city) and Chittagong (second biggest city after the capital) were excluded from the list as the socio-economic and political dynamics would be too complex in those cities. Next, PPSIP consultant teams (POCAA and BIGD) shortlisted 10 towns based on the criteria: equitable division of towns among regions, easy accessibility to potential land, communities’ vulnerability to poverty, availability of slum improvement fund at town level, availability of support from local government, parity with existing/ future infrastructure development plan, less political influence on communities etc. Finally, five towns were selected- Sirajgonj, Narayangonj, Comilla, Barisal and Dinajpur. The consultant teams (mainly POCAA) visited the five towns to rank them in an order of ‘readiness’ of each town, so that they know from in which town the pilot phase should start. The consultant team shared the prospects of the project with local authorities (DC, mayor 24
etc.); ranked prospective communities through meetings with community leaders and visited communities. From this, the consultant team prepared a list of strengths and threats for each town. Through the visits, it was understood that, there is enthusiasm among local authorities in all the town. However Naranyangonj and Bogra was ranked low because of high political influence. Political influence is seen as a significant threat because favoritism and conflict based on political preferences is a common phenomenon in the bureaucratic processes in the context of Bangladesh, and starting the pilot phase in such a city would likely give less success. One of the main threats for Barisal is its’ large size of City-corporation and less enthusiasm in people, for it would mean more difficulty in building a city-wide network of communities. Both in the cities of Comilla and Sirajgonj, there is good cooperation within communities and among communities and local government. However, in Comilla a new City Corporation masterplan was in the process and starting the PPSIP project in Comilla could mean incorporation of slum development initiative in the masterplan, and that could facilitate in creating a good example of urban planning for other cities with slum problems. Finally, Comilla was chosen to be the first city to launch the pilot project. The initial activities which led to selection of the first five communities were meeting with UPPRP cluster leaders, local NGOs and ward councillors. Through meeting these local representatives, a list of 71 communities was made. With three criteria, such as: presence of 50-1000 households, geographical proximity of houses within community and low income of inhabitant, 17 communities were shortlisted by consultant teams. After this shortlisting, the selection criteria were revised in order to find communities which could increase the likelihood of success in the pilot phase, these criteria were, in order of importance: availability of land, performance of savings and credit scheme and possibility of demonstration of
NHA BRAC University Project manager
JAA External Consultants
UPPR leaders Survey
Figure 22: Diagrammatic representation of Actor relationship and enrolment in PPSIP (Author)
various housing options (defined by geographical quality, morphological setting of household etc.). With the revised criteria, the consultant teams again approached local NGOs, UPPRP leaders and ward councillors and with their suggestion the consultant teams made a list of 22 communities; 21 communities from ward 1-18 and one community from ward 19-27. Next, the 22 communities were ranked by UPPRP leaders through voting, based on six criteria: availability of land (30% score), presence of savings and credit practice (14%), sites with lower number of renters and high income people (14%), geographically compact neighborhoods (14%), communal cohesiveness (14%), willingness to participate (14%). 11 high ranked communities were chosen from this list and categorized on the basis of some characteristics or issues- pond-side communities, lake-side communities, embankment-side communities and socially-disadvantaged communities. This categorization was made with an attempt of forming networks of communities, so that as the project progresses, communities can easily find solutions to their problems with the help of their network. The last criteria were largely created by the POCAA team; the nature of these criteria show that there was an inclination among the team towards addressing the issue of water- how it is treated in the urban areas of Comilla. Taking forward the project with a pond-side/lake-side network would be a way to valorize local knowledge about water bodies and collectively revitalizing the urban water bodies to create an integrated way of living with the water. Also, with the this set of criteria the team attempted to include the most marginalized groups. The social researchers’ (BIGD) team then visited each community in order to build social profiles of each community through PRA (Participatory Rapid Appraisal). The community profiles consisted of household income, population, gender ratio, land status, land price, housing and community development related problems of environment identified by community etc. Further survey by the social research team (BIGD) led to acquiring more information 26
of these 11 communities, e.g. Income of each household, savings (household and communal) and capacity of creating new savings for housing, households’ ability to take loan, the types (permanent or temporary) and condition of houses, availability of community resources (social, technical, financial, environmental). In addition to this, NHA appointed engineers performed technical studies in order to acquire information on existing infrastructure (drainage, accessibility etc.) and buildability of land (soil bearing capacity) etc. Based on this information a final set of indicators were formed. Some of the important indicators were: 1. Status and ownership of land (khas (state owned land) / community owned/private/ shared/ other govt. ministry)- major deciding factor, because land acquisition is time consuming process in Bangladesh and not feasible in two years long pilot phase, 2. Income and savings- community’s repayment capacity is a deciding factor because the project is a loan program, 3. Status of physical Infrastructure 4. Social cohesion- very important because the project is designed to be a participatory project 5. Political inclusion- as discussed before, interest and endorsement of political leaders is an important factor as they are very influential in this area. With the help of this indicators, the final five communities were chosen for the pilot phase. These communities are: Molobhipara Baburchibari, Shongraish, Hatipukurpar, Shubhopur Gangpar and Uttor Bhatpara. The communities were selected with multiple set of criteria and indicators and involving the preference and inclinations of several groups of actors. Though the inclinations of different groups are not explicit, it can be imagined that varying interests in different stakeholders led to a time consuming trial and error process of selection. Regardless of what consultant teams, city representatives and community representatives suggested, a major deciding factor that was set by the design of the program was beneficiary communities’ ability to repay loan and their access to legal land. How the deciding power of
certain stakeholders played role in the selection process is further elaborated in the next section.
1.3. Reflections on the community selection process â€œThe process would be different if the community was the central actor in the selection process. The landless settlements were left off in this process, whereas they need the help the most, not only in terms of houses, but also infrastructure- the city canâ€™t survive without their service.â€? (Farzana, 2016) Legal access to land and capacity to repay loan were two major criteria in the community selection process. However, in the communities of Comilla and Sirajgonj, it is rarely the case that a family who has legal and private ownership and are well-off enough to repay the loan easily- are in dire need to build a new house. Comparing to the ultra-poor slum communities, these families have good houses which only need improvements or repairing. According to Islam, the households in communities of Sirajgonj privately owned their lots. The income of the majority of these household is about 30,000 BDT while the target group decided in the project was of families with monthly income of BDT 7000-15000. Those families only needed improvements, such as a good kitchen or a pucca (permanent) roof. (Islam, 2016) The infrastructural improvement objectives included: 1. Developing access with improved roads 2. Ensuring electricity supply 3. Ensuring gas supply 4. Developing proper waste management 4. Developing drainage for waste-water 5. Ensuring water supply. The first two communities (Shongraish and Moulobhipara) to work with already had basic provision of all these infrastructure, except good drainage and waste disposal system. According to the project design only communities who take part in the housing loan program will receive free of cost infrastructural improvement support. So eventually,
Figure 23: Shortlisting communities with ward councillor (NHA, 2014)
Figure 24: Shortlisting communities UPPR leaders (NHA, 2014)
Figure 25: Activities during town visits (Selection criteria, Prezi) 27
the project was practically functioning like a bank housing loan program addressed to lower-middle/middle income families, instead of a slum improvement project. The main priority seemed to be to start a successful loan program. The consultants on field were increasingly uncomfortable with this pattern, but nevertheless, they would continue with the project if the community agreed to the financial scheme that was presented. A number of communities without land security were highly ranked in the selection process because of cohesion in the community, willingness etc. In spite of being the least developed in terms of infrastructure, housing, land security; those communities were not chosen. It was decided that in the pilot phase the project will work with only communities with legal access to land because the time period for pilot phase (2 years) was too short for any kind of acquisition of land or mitigation addressing land conflict. Thus, although one of primary objectives of the project is to help communities without land security, the project could not make any significant progress regarding this issue. Another criterion of the project was less number of renters in a community. These communities were also less developed because land owners of slum communities do not usually care to develop the lots where they do not live themselves. This deemed the renters helpless even if they were interested to take part in the development initiative. (Meeting with community representatives at Comilla PPSIP office, 2014) Another major selection criterion was presence of community cohesiveness and willingness to take part in the project. The communities were always approached through the UPPR leaders and mostly their cooperation and involvement was taken as indicative of the ‘readiness’ of community. Naturally, UPPR leaders’ interest were very much associated with the programs and achievements of UPPRP. Through UPPR programs, they have built saving activities and performed infrastructural projects 28
(communal toilets, communal water taps, improves roads etc.). These processes have gradually improved the communities’ socio-physical environments, and equally importantly, empowered the community women by capacitating them with leadership roles and so on. These leaders who worked for the communities for many years seemed to be feeling out of place with the new project when the programs of PPSIP were not in line of UPPR projects, such as the housing project called CHDF (Community Housing Development Fund) that had already started. Their dissatisfaction with PPSIP’s design can be felt clearly in the following comment by a leader from Moulobhipara during a stakeholders’ meeting in (municipality office): “We are curious to understand why the project want to bypass CDC (Community Development Committee) and CHDF (Community Housing Development Fund) Especially when the project wants to use mobilization by cluster leaders?” (Cluster Leader: Moulobhipara, 2014) The first communities that were chosen already had strong social structure built through UPPR mobilization. Approaching these communities were a good way to learn better about the network and knowledge of different communities in the city, but continuing with these communities were eventually a waste of time and resources from the project end. Although the selection involved local people, eventually it was top-down process. Producing some visible result (as housing) in the pilot phase would be necessary to produce a demonstration effect for the project, and hence the criteria were designed in a way to achieve that goal; but some criterion had a strong focus on the interest of the Bank rather than the communities. In other words, the “community-driven” project could not eventually motivate any community to continue with the project.
Figure 27: A poster by POCAA promoting pond-facing urbanization as opposed to current practice of using the city ponds as â€œbacksâ€?. (NHA, 2014)
Figure 28: A poster by POCAA promoting collective effort in infrastructure development (NHA, 2014)
Figure 26: Shortlisted communities in different wards of Comilla. (NHA, 2014)
Figure 29: A poster promoting by POCAA promoting walkability in river banks (NHA, 2014) 29
Figure 30: Comilla, a city full of ponds.
Figure 31: Skyline of Comilla.
Figure 32: Moulobhipara Baburchibari community. 30
1.4. Context of Comilla
1.5. Project activities on the field
Comilla is a district situated in the east of Bangladesh. The urban population of Comilla is 7,07,597 and population density is 1712/ sq. km (BBS, 2014).
Shongraish and Moulobhipara were two of the first communities who participated in the project. Both communities have savings committees with UPPR and have developed their infrastructure (especially communal toilets and roads) over past years with UPPR development projects. The communities were first briefed in detail about the project- its objectives and program. Then, based on discussions with the UPPR leaders, the architects fixed project boundaries for each community, i.e. parts of a community were chosen as defined by their geographical characteristics, or bounded by infrastructures. However, a possible extended area was also decided for future consideration.
The landscape of Comilla is defined by water bodies; rivers (Little Feni and Gomoti), natural lakes and manmade ponds of small and large size. While the water bodies served as water source for city neighborhoods in the past, with the introduction of piped water, the developed neighborhoods do not need to use them now. Many ponds are now a days being filled for developing structures. However, for the disadvantaged neighborhoods, the ponds still remain a source of water for household purposescleaning clothes, utensils, bathing etc. Locals from slum communities say that, the pond banks serve as gathering spaces for them, especially in summer when power-cuts are frequent and dense slum settlements are difficult to live in. The ponds serve as an important source of water also in case of fire-hazards, especially for neighborhoods which are not easily accessible to fire trucks. Despite the cityâ€™s role in shaping the history of the country (and of the region before the formation of the Republic) over many centuries through its economic and cultural presence; the city has received little urban, infrastructural or technological upgrade in recent decades. Ill equipped to function as a modern city, it now struggles to cope with aggressive urban development. As with many cities in Bangladesh, whose infrastructural and resource capacities are collapsing under the weight of ever growing demands to deliver economic value and to take in rapidly increasing population, the city of Comilla is being regularly cut and stitched to enhance its economic and industrial production capacity and to accommodate the growing number of migrant inhabitants. These modifications on the cityscape have taken a heavy toll on the quality of life of individuals and entire neighborhoods: more so among those less privileged.
With the help of POCAA consultants, the communities then prepared community maps to locate the respective positions of their houses, toilets, kitchens etc., type of houses (permanent/temporary) and ownership of lots. Through informal community workshop, inhabitants also discussed what improvements they desire in their living environment. These processes were performed in community courtyards or houses. While a part of the team were involved in mapping and collaborating directly with the communities, other parts of the team were involved in extracting and analysing maps from GIS databases, reviewing and appropriating building codes etc. Along with these activities, land experts from BIGD started to extract and analyze land status of other communities (Shubhopur Gangpar, Uttor Bhatpara etc.) on the list in order to facilitate future negotiations about land. However, in spite of numerous attempts from the BIGD and POCAA, negotiations with the Land Ministry could not be made because the land wing of NHA was not very active in this process and the local government was not very helpful. It was difficult to make negotiations for land transfer from other ministries to housing ministry. The project applied to the Prime Minister to facilitate land negotiation processes, but didnâ€™t receive any response. 31
Figure 33: Project briefing at Shongraish community. (NHA, 2014)
Figure 35: Community visit in Shongraish (NHA, 2014)
Figure 34: Knowing about households through Participatory Rapid Appraisal. (NHA, 2014)
Figure 36: Mapping with Moulobhipara community. (NHA, 2014)
Figure 37: Completed community map of Moulobhipara (NHA, 2014)
Figure 38: Dream Community workshop with children in Shongraish (NHA, 2014)
Figure 39: Consulting design with a site model in Moulobhipara (NHA, 2014)
Loan Capital @ %
World Bank IDA Pay Interest
Loan Capital @ %
NGO/CDF/CHDF/PFI Technical Support By PPSIP consultant teams Pay monthly Interest
Loan Capital @15 %
UPPR Leadership and management
Figure 40: Tentative financial mechanism of PPSIP (Author) CHDF at City level is managed by CDC Leaders and monitored by City Level Advisory Committee -District Commissioner -Member Secretary of Pourashava -Community Audit (Savings groups) -One staff from UPPR -Other interest groups
External Resources/ O & M Fund
Membership Fee And Interest Earning CHDF Fund
Pay monthly Interest
Loan Capital @ %
CHDF Cluster Committee
UPPR- Technical Support on land And Housing
Pay monthly Interest
Loan Capital @ %
Loan Capital @ %
Primary Group 2
Pay monthly Interest
Figure 40: Financial mechanism of CHDF (Bertilsson, 2013) 34
During community meetings, the consultant teams shared with the communities about successful communityled slum improvement projects in other South-east Asian countries (Burma, Fiji, Vietnam, India and Philippines). Through sharing about successful examples, POCAA attempted to create dialogue with the community about the importance of combined efforts of professionals and locals in creating cost-effective design solutions.
1.5.1. Financial mechanism “We were talking about examples like Baan Mankong, Bang Bua and CODI, we didn’t probably yet realize the biggest difference between PPSIP and those examples were the funding mechanism. In Thailand the communities were receiving grants, and here the community was offered loan. That makes all the difference. We were too focused on the physical product, the housing.” - Sumaiya Rufida Islam, Community Architect (Islam, 2016).
According to the financial scheme, one household will be granted a maximum amount of BDT 2,00,000 (USD 2548) as loan which they have to repay in 5 years with an interest rate of 15%. A household who takes a BDT 1,00,000 (USD 1274). loan would have to repay a total of BDT 1,42,740 (USD 2379). This fund will be disbursed from World Bank as loans, through Bangladesh Bank and then a local NGO and finally to a saving committee that the communities would form for this project. In Shongraish, the first response to the numbers was that the interest rate is too high for them. In this project architects and social teams were the only group directly communicating with the community and naturally, because finance is not their core skill, neither of this group had very clear understanding of how the financial mechanism works. PKSF and the finance team from BRAC University only agreed to collaborate from Dhaka. The same response came from UPPRP leaders of
Figure 41: Financial mechanism of Baan Mankong Project, Thailand (Skinner, 2014) 35
Figure 42: Different housing options developed by POCAA (NHA, 2014)
Figure 43: Infrastructure layout for Moulobhiparaa community (NHA, 2014)
Moulobhipara. According to them, the CHDF (Community Housing Development Fund) housing project was running in Gopalgonj successfully with a 12% interest rate, and they would not agree with a higher interest rate. During several meetings the UPPRP leaders expressed that, although families in different communities are becoming increasingly interested in the project, it is highly unlikely that they would agree with this interest rate. With the absence of a financial team to explain, decode or modify the financial scheme properly, the consultant teams on the field attempted to broaden their skills on this issue with the help of visiting consultants, studying financial models from other projects etc. It was clear to the teams in the field that the interest rate is higher than in the CHDF project in Gopalgonj because firstly the fund comes as loan and because there are a bigger number of tiers present (Bangladesh Bank and local NGO), the interest rate increases highly before it can reach individual households. Conflict arising on interest rate became a recurrent event during a particular phase in Comilla. Although the project derived its participatory design approaches from ACCA projects, a major difference between this project and any ACCA was the funding mechanism. In ACCA funded projects the fund reaches to a city-wide community network in the form of donation. Therefore, when it is disbursed within community household in the form of loan the interest rate is lower and also because the loan is repaid to their own community-network, the participants are less hesitant to repay the loan with an interest.
resolved and the BIGD team would continue with the social awareness program. The consultant teams didnâ€™t have any clear idea about the financial mechanism even when the project moved to the next city Sirajgonj after working in Comilla for almost an year. According to Islam, the POCAA team was aware that discussing financial mechanism in detail will only complicate the situation, so they only performed programs on housing and land. design workshops, community mapping, interviews etc. in order to create dialogue with the families about their aspiration of housing improvement within a cost frame of BDT 200000 (USD 2550) per household.
1.5.2. Infrastructure and housing design The in-house exercises by POCAA team included infrastructure and housing prototype design etc. The designs were further developed together with local builders, external consultants (from World Bank, architecture firms etc.) and professionals from NHA through a workshop. After several consultations and revisions of the infrastructure and housing design, a detail cost estimation report was prepared in a collaboration among POCAA, JAA (Jalal Ahmed Architects) and NHA engineers. Later, the house designs with tentative cost estimation was presented to the Moulobhipara community.
Eventually no productive dialogue took place between the community and PPSIP and the consultant teams decided that before the financial scheme is revised to fit communitiesâ€™ affordability, it was of no use to design/plan further along with the community. However, the POCAA team carried on with designing infrastructure, housing prototypes, cost estimation etc. so that they can further consult with the community when and if the conflict is 37
1.6. Disputes among different stakeholders “It is important for us to first agree on each other’s understanding of what development is or what we actually mean by poverty, and poverty alleviation. We should have taken enough time just to understand each other’s tools and languages” – Mahmuda Alam (Alam, 2016) One of the reasons why the community lost trust in the project, was because too many stakeholders were involved in this project and they visited the community at different times with different agenda. The values, working method and language of communication were different in all these different teams. Conflict among consultant teams, community leaders and current UPPR officials proved to be strongest factor for certain disruptions along the project. The UPPR town manager, the official responsible for supervising UPPR efforts in communities, although verbally agreed to collaborate with PPSIP, was not fully convinced of the importance of PPSIP in “his” communities. He complained that he did not feel enough involved in the project. His dissension proved to be a deciding factor of UPPRP leaders’ non-cooperation with the project, just as the leaders’ non-cooperation with the project closed the line of communication with the communities. When POCAA attempted to bring ACCA fund for housing and infrastructure improvement in communities out of UPPR network, the disagreement from town manager leaders grew even stronger because this effort seemed to him as a token of contesting UPPR’s capacity. The different consultant teams in PPSIP could not fully utilize the potential of a multi-disciplinary professional environment. Only POCAA and BIGD teams were mainly working in the field. Except periodical meetings and site visits, the other stake holders (representatives and professionals from NHA) were not involved in the 38
field for long periods of time. This resulted in conflicted understanding of the context, goal and therefore compromising of the field professional’s capacity. Although BIGD team was staying on the field for social appraisals and mobilization, it was difficult to incorporate their efforts with the team of POCAA because they were largely carrying out responsibilities given by superiors from the Dhaka office. This led to isolation of efforts from different professional teams despite of frequent full-house discussion sessions in the field office. When communication with the community was halted because of the absence of a clear financial scheme, there weren’t many chances except occasional in-house design workshops etc. when the architects and social researchers could work together. While the architects were designing housing prototypes etc. by themselves, the social team was performing their own awareness programs in the community, quite separate from the housing project. Farzana says, “The social researchers we worked with, I believe they have interesting tools that could be used in the design process in many useful ways. I know about excellent projects that they have performed in other places. They have tools that the architects’ team do not have, but sadly we could not learn and incorporate each other’s tools in this project.” (Farzana, 2016) According to Islam, the leading team on the field was the architects’ team, and they were not fully equipped with the vast array of organisational skill that was required for a project like this. The limits of their skills were constantly challenged by cumbersome bureaucratic processes. The mind-set and working method of several groups were very different. The architects’ team were mobilized by an ambitious humanistic result, the finance team was too pragmatic to find an innovative way to create an affordable mechanism. An integrated approach of socio-technical innovation was missing (Islam, 2016).
1.7. Final reflections on the case The design of the project addresses grave issues as housing and infrastructure crisis in urban poor, intends to adopt a community-driven approach in integrated slum development. Yet, in the pilot phase coordination between communities and the project has failed in unfortunate ways. Two main reasons can be sketched out in order to understand why this happened. a. Participatory design/planning was seen in an uncritical way: The notion of participatory design was accepted as if when the community participates in decision making processes, everything falls in place magically. Even if community always stays in the center of the discussion, the project actually failed to measure their financial capacity, eventually it was made sure that the Banks profit through this project. Not only participation from the community was ritualistic, serving only a face-value, the task force on the field was also put in a complete dead-end situation, they were always under pressure to meet World Bank’s criteria. Even though consultant teams were free to take decisions on the field, practically they were merely executives offered with remuneration, devoid of power to make the really important decisions or challenge the institutional framework that they were part of.
task force on the field was responsible for continuously reporting to these stakeholders. Although they could well realize how these dynamics were affecting the project negatively, there weren’t any stage available which allowed to flexibly negotiate these inequalities when the project already started; the power inequalities were too strong to mediate and the consultant teams could not deviate the fixed structure, although unlike the niche development projects, the architects did not have to search for funds etc. and had institutional support, they failed to create any real impact on the field. It is agreeable that the project deals with urgent planning issues and started as a way forward to incorporate societal changes into the country’s planning field, but it certainly will take alternative efforts to bring real change in the field in future. Moreover, it will be unfortunate if all the efforts spent till now for the project are not utilized in future.
b. The interest and enrolment of different stakeholders were not realistically sketched out: The design of the project had foreseen high risk around stakeholder participation and institutional consensus. This risk could not be averted. The unequal power dynamics could be changed if there were less number of stakeholders involved. With repetitive consensus building exercises, it was difficult to assign responsibility to any one actor for an action, the consultant teams on the field were completely perplexed in the process of considering every related stakeholders’ interests before and after any activities they carried out on the field. Although World Bank, NHA, PKSF etc. had more power in taking decisions, their enrolment in the project was not sufficient. On the other hand, the 39
2. City-Wide Housing Project, Jhenaidah
The project was conceived by two community architects, Khondaker Hasibul Kabir and Suhailey Farzana, as an attempt to bring community architecture practice in their own hometown; Jhenaidah. The architects were involved in PPSIP for over a year until they recognized the lack of institutional cohesiveness as a significant factor hindering the progress in slum integration projects . This project started as an response to that situation, as an attempt to mobilize close social connections in housing development for the socially and financially marginalized communities. The project started around January, 2015 and till now through the process of building 20 houses with one community, organizing community saving activities with five communities, the project has brought a multitude of positive relational impacts in the city of Jhenaidah. The architects translated their personal connections with the director of a local NGO called Alive, TNO (Thana Nirbahi Officer)(1), District Commissioner and mayor of the city- to an institutional association. The connection with the local government have helped the support group (architects and NGO) access to necessary information about marginalized communities.
2.1. Project concept The main idea of the project is to start community based savings, and develop housing in slum communities through participatory design and planning. In addition to that, the project will gradually empower the slum communities by building a network of communities which, with time will grow capacity to initiate and implement housing programs with minimum technical assistance from outside the
(1) The designation of TNO was introduced in city municipalities in 1982 as part of an act of administrative reform/ reorganization by the military regime of General Hussain M Ershad. The main essence of this act was to identify inadequacies of civil administration system and reorganize the administration system in spirit of devolution and the objective of taking the administration nearer to the people. A TNO is selected from senior scale officers of the Bangladesh Civil Service (Administration) cadre. S/he supervises local level developments which does not extend to national and regional coverage. 40
Completion of construction of houses December, 2015
Conception of project December, 2014 City visit ACCA fund apply
Students from BRAC visit the project
Kishori Dol (Youth group)
Networking with NGO and TNO Presenting project in Habitat III Getting to know the communitites Meetings in community for savings
Beginning of construction of houses September, 2015
Selection of Mohishakundu community for the ďŹ rst big (housing) project
Creating community proďŹ le
Vising SAFE in Dinajpur to learn about bamboo construction
Selavip Fund May, 2016 Community mapping
Vising Sri Lanka
Suvastu Developers visit the projct
Figure 44: Tentative timeline of City-wide Housing Project, Jhinaidah (Author) 41
community and by utilizing increased connection with citygovernance.
build the next 20 houses in their own community, or they might decide to give the seed fund to another community.
The architects applied for ACCA (Asian Coalition of Community Action) fund in order to give the development process a head-start. ACCA usually gives two kinds of fund for city-wide development; fund for big projects and small projects. The fund for a big project is used in building houses or infrastructure. The small fund goes to community savings account, from each the participant households can receive loans in order to invest in a business or repair/ extend housing.
2.2. The Support Group
In this funding mechanism, the money comes to each community as donation, but reaches each household in the form of loan. This means, every household who receives loan from the community account will have to return it to its own community with a certain percentage of interest. The project encourages communities to build their own communal savings in the meantime, so at any point, when a community feels that it has enough savings of own, it can donate the seed fund to a new community who is ready to be a part of this network. This way, the fund revolves within the city. Furthermore, in the ACCA mechanism, the whole network can have a common fund called CDF (Community Development Fund) and through this they access private, national or international funds for development projects. The project intends to build a city- wide network of 50 slum communities eventually with the help of this funding and saving mechanism. At this moment, six communities in the city have such savings group. In CWHP, the first big project fund of 33 Lakh BDT was used in building 20 houses in Mohishakundu Shordarpara community. Each participating household has received a loan of BDT 100,000 (USD 1282). They will repay BDT 120,000 over 8.3 years (BDT 1200 per month). In the next phase of the project, whenever the community has enough savings in the community account (built through loan repayment or fund from other sources), it will start to 42
I refer to the group of professionals involved in the project as support group. The core of this support group is a group of architect called POCAA and a local NGO called Alive. In this section I will briefly describe the nature of their professional activities. POCAA (Platform of Community Artisans and Architect), formed in 2010 by Architect Khanderkar Hasibul Kabir and a small group of architecture students and graduates, facilitates disadvantaged communities in developing their social and physical living environment by the means of mapping, designing- building houses and infrastructure, dialogue making with institutions, donor agencies and local/national government etc. Community-led mapping is an important tool in the practice by POCCA. Through mapping and other communal activities, POCCA attempts to valorize communityâ€™s strength and cohesiveness with an overarching aim of empowering the community so that they can use their skills and resources in developing their own community. (Farzana, 2016) Alive is a Bangladesh based NGO who is involved with projects on medical waste management, tube-well water quality management, community-led solid waste, waste water management and urban food production. In this project, besides receiving and managing the fund as a registered NGO, Alive has collaborated with POCAA through community mobilizing activities, skill development with communities, building construction, accounts keeping and so on. (Alam, 2016).
Figure 45: Structure of city-wide network and its relation with external institutions (Reprinted from Alam,2016)
Figure 46: Image of central market in Jhinaidah. (Author)
Figure 47: Nabaganga river, Jhinaidah. (Author)
2.3. Context of Jhenaidah – the city and its governance “A beautiful and productive river with clear water, meandering through the heart of Jhenaidah city, is a common nostalgia of the people. Middle-aged people would be relishing their memories from past, how they coexisted with this river, how “sacred” it was to them. Every house would be facing the canal while the toilets are placed in the back. Continuous earthen walkways were there along the river, which are now disconnected by open toilets and garbage dump. This negative change happened within one generation. But 30-40 years back they were much concern before dumping anything in the river as the water was used for daily chores, cleaning, cooking, ablution etc. The river was never a “back” for them” –Suhailey Farzana (Alam, 2016) Jhenaidah is a city situated in south-west of Bangladesh. Located 210 km west to the capital city (Dhaka) Bangladesh, Jhenaidah municipality stands on the bank of the Noboganga River. Jhenaidah was established as an urban center in 1958. (Alam, 2016) The municipality of Jhenaidah is consists of 9 wards and 33 mahallas (neighbourhoods). The municipality has acute shortage of man-power. There is only one planner for the whole municipality and the post of ‘slum upgrading officer’ is vacant. Half of the posts in engineering section is vacant and there is no architect or any other design professionals as such working for the municipality (Alam, 2016). There are 50 disadvantaged neighborhoods (slums) in the city (Masud, 2016). Given the capitalistic trend in urban development in Bangladeshi cities, the municipality which is already short of man-power, deeply lacks the capacity to initiate and implement any development program for the disadvantaged communities. Deprived of municipality services and lacking the financial capacity to afford the private market, people in slum communities improvise
their own housing, water, waste infrastructure etc. Thus, “the city keeps growing informally and the master plan with all its good intention stays only on paper.” (Alam, 2016, p. 44) In a situation like this, bottom-up initiatives like CWHP can demonstrate an alternative way of implementing changes through valorizing local resources, skills and enthusiasm. As I have mentioned before, the support group mobilized their connection with local government to facilitate the project. The support from TNO (Thana Nirbahi Officer) and District Commissioner were instrumental in implementing the project. According to Farzana, they were open to new ideas, available for discussion with the support group and the communities, and facilitated project tasks with administrative and legal support (Farzana, 2016).
2.4. Selection of communities Selecting the communities was one of the most challenging steps for the support group in the project. It was not easy to find communities who have the capacity to make any collective effort in a cohesive way. Furthermore, some communities do not trust development organizations easily. The support group visited the disadvantaged slum communities and discussed about saving and housing prospects of the project. Eventually, after several trial and error steps, consultation with local government and among the support group, 5 communities were selected from the project. (Farzana, POCAA: the insects of community architecture, 2016) The next step was to form a network of five communities. All of these communities would receive the fund for small project, and one community would receive the fund for big project. The five communities in the present network are from the neighborhoods called: Mohishakundu Shordarpara, Mohishakundu 2, Shoshanpara, Vennatola, and Arappur. 45
Figure 48: Location of the first five communities in the city-wide network of Jhenaidah. (Alam, 2016)
2.4.1. Mohishakundu Shordarpara Community: the place and people Among the five communities Mohishakundu Shordarpara was the most prepared community to start the housing project. Through a brief study of the place, its people and the inter-relation between them, I intend to give an overview of socio-spatial reality of the communities in the network. Mohishakundu Shordarpara, a community of 52 households, was the first community to receive funds for the big project. With the support group they decided to build new houses using the fund. Most of their houses were temporary structures- made of mud, CI (corrugated Iron) Sheet or bamboo mat etc. and stand on small individual lots. The small lots are all owned by the inhabitants and measures from .5 shotok to 5 shotok (20 sqm. To 200 sqm). These lots are accessed by a narrow pathways which are connected to an access road. Most people make living here by farming, driving vans, daily labor and various small businesses. (Farzana, 2016) The new houses have uplifted the socio-physical environment in the community but the community is still in need of a lot improvement in terms of water, toilets, and drainage for a healthy living condition. Most of the households use communal toilets which are not in a good condition. Recently, the municipality have built a number of new toilets for the community, but since those were not built with the participation of the community, it has caused communal disputes. According to Alamâ€™s research on this issue, the community has reported about several problems of these toilets; e.g. the toilets were positioned on inaccessible or disputed pieces of land, some toilets are too big for the small plots they are placed on, the toilets are built using overly expensive materials which community people are not used to; e.g. ceramic floor tiles. According to the community, if the toilets were made cost-effectively, it would be possible to install septic
tanks instead of ring slabs and that would facilitate easier maintenance. Furthermore, since the community hardly receives municipality services, community people are not sure if the municipality will collect the waste when the waste tanks are full; for this reason the new toilets are unused at this moment to avoid further dispute in the community. According to locals, collective consultation with the community could have been a way to avoid wrong positioning and design of the toilets. (Alam, 2016) The individual lots and houses hardly provides the families with enough space for household chores and recreational activities. The community uses the entry road, an empty piece of land alongside the road and a number of small and large ponds nearby for a range of daily activities. The entry road is used by children for playing, the ponds are used by women for washing clothes, and the empty lot which is designated for a city-playground according to the DTITP (District Town Infrastructure Development Project) masterplan, is now used as a space for keeping livestock, drying washed clothes etc. Since there is no drainage infrastructure for waste water, the empty lot is also used as a wetland which soak run-off storm water and household waste water. (Alam, 2016) Besides collecting potable water, the open air municipal water-taps provide space for women to wash utensils and children to take baths. The community temple, a small temporary structure and its yard is also used for multiple activities beside prayer rituals, especially for weekly meetings about savings, women preparing for cooking (cutting vegetables etc.), casual gatherings by men and women etc. Recently, women has also started to use the temple yard to make bead bags together to start a small business. Observing how community people are using a set of space for layers of activities at different hours of the day not only offers interesting understanding about their adaptive lifestyle, but also shows very clearly that they suffer from scarcity of space and infrastructure and how 47
Figure 49: A usual day at Mohishakundu community; the access street is a place of gathering. (Author)
Figure 50: Kutcha (temporary) houses in Moohishakundu neighborhood (Author)
Figure 51: Women and children using communal water taps (Author)
Figure 52: Drain connecting to Mohishakundu community (Reprinted from Alam, 2016)
Figure 53: A local resident in Arappur Daspara community making basket. Figure 54: Community meeting in the temple yard (Alam, 2016) Most people in the poor communities of Jhenaidah lives on such small crafts (Author)
Figure 55: The community people in Arappur Daspara uses nearby open spaces for several purposes such as, drying clothes, preparing baskets. These open spaces are important for the communitiesâ€™ well being, but these kind of spaces are not owned by the community itself, hence there is always a chance that they will lose the right to use these spaces when the lots are developed (Author)
they must depend for their daily activities on spaces that are not designated for these uses. Why this should worry us is because, in future, when this area is developed, the density of population in this area might be too high or the area might become too gentrified for local communities to use open spaces the way they do now.
communities people live and develop by choice and only in an unslumming community, participatory development might truly work; and if a particular slum is not already unslummed to a particular point, the first step to implement any development effort is to create that effect within the community.
The communities in the present network live in similar socio-physical contexts. Despite the financial and social hurdles the communities face as a minority group; they demonstrate communal cohesiveness, sense of identity and belonging, enthusiasm for saving and organizational capabilities. These qualities are instrumental in producing significant changes from within the community through participatory design process.
The communities in the present network indeed demonstrate signs of unslumming, but through many instances of disputes(3) , it has been also become evident the communities are still in a delicate transformation phase. Through the process of network building, community based saving and building houses; the unslumming process has aggravated with this project, in other words, people in this community have found more reasons to stay and develop their own lives within the community.
To make sure the effects of a development project do not fade-out, one of the important steps is to start with the right communities which can not only implement tangible result but also create positive impact with it in the city. This has helped the support group to “discern…and build upon the forces of regeneration that exist in the communities themselves” (Jacobs, 1961). But the issue of selection of communities might bring up questions such as what makes a slum community possess these specific qualities that can be strengthened to bring changes, or why do some communities have more capability in utilizing development initiatives than others? The idea of unslumming of slums as introduced by Jacobs in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities offers important insights as a response to this question. According to Jacobs, slums and its inhabitants continuously perpetuates a vicious cycle of trouble, where lack of resource and opportunities discourages people to develop within the community, and this inability in people aggravates the deterioration of socio-physical environment of a slum community. In an unslumming community this cycle has been broken by forces or phenomenon like diversity or solidarity. (Jacobs, 1961)(2) In unslumming (2) The interpretation of Jacobs’ idea is further developed in Section 5.6.1. 50
2.5. Community based Savings “This small fund became a great source of energy to unite poor communities together and making them confident that poor people can do it too!” (Farzana, 2016) One way to make people believe and act in cohesiveness is to empower people by mobilizing their capacities in bringing real changes together. This project by far has been successful in starting this change. The community feels empowered now. This empowerment has come through the change in their social, financial and physical reality. This transformation has been a remedy from the sense of powerlessness, something that people in slum communities feel that they are destined to experience because they are poor or otherwise socially marginalized. When visible results such as; savings and housing have started to emerge, the community people started to believe in their capacities to make changes, not only in their own households but in a collective scale. In Metzger and his colleagues’ study (3) Communal disputes are discussed more in section 3.10 of the same chapter.
of power in planning, they say that, the vicious cycle of cause and effect that is perceived by most people in a marginalized group can be broken by “practical inventions translated/inserted in specific ecologies of action” and thus creating “effects that can be labelled as power”. (Metzger, Soneryd, & Hallström, 2016). After selecting the first five communities to start with, the support group mobilized the saving mechanism within the communities. The saving mechanism is a common thread which connect the city-network. In this mechanism, the community sets up a saving management committee who collects saving from member households and grants loan to the members when they need the money. The savings committee decide which day to meet for collecting savings, how to keep the accounts, who are/ are not eligible for receiving loan, and how to distribute loans among themselves. Micro-credit is a well-known concept in these communities, since many NGOs are active with microcredit loans in the area. But community based savings is very different in principle and result from the usual ways of saving, with a bank or an MFI program. The communities have realised that they would not need a NGO to provide them with loans, if they can loan themselves with community savings. This way they can increase their own saving by keeping the interest within the community and develop a central fund. This fund will help them to improve their settlement without much of external aid. According to Farzana, saving is becoming community’s strength. In her words: “Many communities expressed the feeling that they never had this amount of money what they have today together! It was possible because of group savings” (Farzana, 2016). Participants in Arappur Daspara said that, because this community based saving is controlled by the community itself, it is seldom the case that the borrower uses up the money without being able to repay for it. In most cases, the borrowers use the money for repairing or extending
their houses, or investing in a small business. (Project Participants in Arappur Daspara, 2016).
2.6. Design with/by community “The effort that women of Mohishakundu Sordarpara put in mapping was amazing. I was the only professional working in the community at that time and I was a bit clueless as to how to carry out the mapping process. The community women made the whole map in only 5 days! To me, it still feels like a dream. They were very strategic, and organized among themselves” (Farzana, 2016) The community in Mohishakundu Shordarpara designed and built 20 houses till now and plan to build 20 more houses in the next phase. The first step to build the houses was to make community maps. With the help of architect, the community gradually measured and mapped the relative positions and ownership of plots and houses, secondary structures such as kitchens, toilets, communal toilets, material and permanence of structures, communal structures as the temple, shops etc., and infrastructure such as road, drainage, water taps etc. Mapping has worked as an important tool to mobilize and refine the socio-spatial knowledge the community possesses about their own neighborhood. The mapmaking process works as the first step to translate each participating households’ intangible ideas about housing into something tangible. Gradually by adding layers of information and understanding, the community collectively creates a representation of their current situation and their future aspiration. A community map helps the designers understand the socio- spatial complexity of a neighborhood. If not built collectively with the community, the designers would have spent a very long time in building this understanding through observation and individual interviews and probably would end up with only a part of the whole story. According to Farzana, the women in Mohishakundu took only five days to make this map. She has realized through the process that while working local 51
Figure 56: The community first started with making a mental map of relative positions of the households; the map gradually evolved with more information on it; such as, size and position of houses, secondary structures, infrastructure etc. (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 57: While mapping, the women expressed that prayer corners, plants and animal sheds are also important part of their households (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 58: After mapping, the community measured their plots and structures to prepare a measured drawing with the help of architects (Farzana, 2016)
communities, professionals with formal technical training can learn intriguing and sometimes more efficient ways of producing knowledge through a social process. After mapping, community women produced measured drawings of existing site, then through a ‘dream house’ workshop, with the help of scaled models, they made preliminary designs of the houses. Through these models they have communicated with the architects their needs and aspirations about houses. Based on these discussions, the architects designed two prototype houses and through repetitive consultations with the community, according to the need of each participating family, the final designs for 20 houses were made. The NGO played an important role in the construction phase. The small budget was a major constraint in the project. With the help of the NGO, a building construction committee was built which was responsible for purchasing building materials and for carefully controlling through regular account keeping that the fund and resources at hand are used efficiently. Each family supervised the construction process and provided some labour to minimize the cost. With gradual shifting of plan and design of the building as per the families’ needs, the community has eventually built houses with 20 different designs. With customized design, positioning and layout of new houses, individual and communal open spaces have taken shape. During a discussion, women at Mohishakundu Shordarpara have expressed how the process of mapping and building has changed the perception of their own capacities, one woman said: “We feel like now we can make our houses ourselves. The other day we were discussing about the budget to build the first story of our house and my daughter suggested that she can make it with half the money! The way apa (Architect Farzana) has worked with us, we feel like we are architects now!” (Mahmuda, 2016).
2.7. Networking among communities Moulaert, Martinelli and Gonzalez points out in a transversal analysis of socially innovative projects that local initiatives have “a symbolic, demonstrative effect on the broader urban scene, showing that change is possible… often the beginning of an interactive social learning process, blurring institutional and scalar boundaries” (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010). This effect is visible in the case of CWHP. The project has started with a network of six communities. Although they live in different part of the city, they share a sense of connectedness which is fostered through community saving activities, community mapping etc. Mohishakundu Shardarpara, the first community to collectively design and build houses, has started assisting other communities in community mapping. They joined the support group in meetings in other communities and took lead in explaining how to produce and use a community map. Together with women of Mohishakundu, women in Vennatola produced their first community map. The women of Mohishakundu helped audit other communities’ savings accounts and book keeping. Neighboring communities have also started savings program with the help from Mohishakundu community. This way, the network has started to grow. These network activities have helped local women to break through social blockades such as strict and oppressing religious or gender norms. During a discussion in Mohishakundu Shordarpara, a woman from the neighboring community said, “In our neighborhood we couldn’t find enough members to form a saving community in our neighborhood, but I found the saving program very interesting, so I joined the savings program (Mohishakundu) neighborhood, my husband discouraged 53
Figure 59: A project participant from Mohishakundu community explain the design of her 'dream house' to the community (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 61: Two design prototypes by the communuty architects (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 60: Community women with models of their 'dream houses' (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 62: Architect Farzana explaining a design prototype to the community (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 63: Community people are treating bamboo themselves. They have took part in the construction process in order to save labor cost (Masud, 2016)
Figure 64: A new house in Mohishakundu. The windows and doors are yet to be completed. (Farzana, 2016)
Figure 65: With better houses, people have more places not only for themselves, but for plants, animals etc. (Author)
Figure 64: Prayer corner set in an under-construction house of a Hindu family in Mohishakundu. The new personal spaces that started to emerge as soon as the houses were usable, show the sense of pride in community households. (Farzana, 2016)
me strongly at first, he was doubtful in me joining the program with Hindu women, I said to him that, joining this savings program wouldn’t make me any less of a Muslim, now we don’t regret this decision”.
2.8. Learning from and reaching out to institutions Throughout the project, the support group have tried to constantly connect the community network to various institutions in order to advance the co-learning process. With financial support from ACCA, the two community leaders visited Sri Lanka in order to learn community saving mechanisms from Women’s Development Bank. According to Masud, this visit was a practical learning opportunity for both the support group and the community. He says, “The Bank’s development program is revolutionary in making formal banking accessible to financially challenged communities. Through this program, the bank first motivates a community to start a community based banking system- individual members saves small amount of money every day and they can take loan with interest from the communal bank when in need. If the members show good record of saving with the communal bank they can become a member of the Women’s development Bank and have access to services and assets like any other welloff citizen. The bank also gives skill development training and employment opportunities to community women and their family members” (Masud, 2016). During the building construction phase, the support group and some participants from the community visited NGO SAFE in Dinajpur to learn about cost-effective bamboo treatment. SAFE is an NGO based in Dinajpur which helps disadvantages families and communities in rural and urban areas of Dinajpur. SAFE has been a pioneer in Bangladesh in promoting building construction with natural materials and indigenous building construction 56
techniques- also coupling those with modern construction techniques. The connectivity with institutions have continued to grow with the architects’ attempt of involving more local academia and professionals in the process. With support from local government, they have been able to share the project, create discussions about local development with the students in the local polytechnic school. According to Farzana, it was difficult for them to find engineers for the project- when a couple of attempts to bring engineer from Dhaka failed, they decided to involve local professionals. (Farzana, 2016). The support group also arranged academic design studio for housing project with one of the disadvantaged communities in Jhenaidah. To involve students and young graduates is also a way to create interest for local development within academia and eventually in practice. According to Alam, university students and professionals involving with these communities can be considered as increasing knowledge value within the communities, since not many professionals agree to stay in a secondary city like Jhenaidah (Alam, 2016). According to Moulaert et al., local initiatives, “by their networking activity, initiatives reverberate and exchange their repertoires, issues and achievements with other similar experiences at the regional, national and international scale.” ( (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010, p.217) A similar phenomena has taken place in this project through dissemination of skill and knowledge to and from various institutions.
Figure 65: Women of Mohishakundu community explaining savings mechanism to women in Shoshanpara community (Alam, 2016)
Figure 66: Community women sharing about the project with BRAC University students (Masud, 2016)
Figure 67: Women in Mohishakundu community reading about similar ACHR projects (Alam,2016)
Figure 68: Mayor of Jhinaidah visiting Mohishakundu community to learn about the project (Farzana, 2016)
2.9. Impacting governance with local actions In studying the effects of local development initiatives, Moulaert et al. point out that, “local actions inevitably affected higher scales of government, either challenging them or changing the modes of governance. At the same time, the higher scales of government affected, conditioned or enabled the local scale” (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010)
from a scenario where power-ambivalent citizens or nonhegemonic groups (the professionals or the community) are not convinced of the power of informal structures and frameworks in shaping the flow of events in planning field, to a scenario where dominant relations (socio-political system or market favouring only the privileged) are changed by collective efforts supported by empowerment. It might be too optimistic to say, but the transformations that the project has brought is a realized alternative to the usual approach of instrumental rationality, especially in the planning field in Bangladesh.
The effect of this project on local governance has started with a slow but sure fashion. After the construction of 20 houses in Mohishakundu Shordarpara, the local government have offered increased assistance to the project. The architects invited the mayor to present these achievements in an international conference called German Habitat Forum held in Berlin. Following this, the mayor has assured the assistance to form a CDF (City development fund) for disadvantaged communities in Jhenaidah. He has also offered the architects with additional technical support from the city corporation of engineers.
“Last time I went to the community and saw someone wrote on her house “Shopno Paraa” in Bangala, which means, “Dream community”. Every time I go back to them, I can sense and see the gradual changes. They might also know how I am changing too” (Farzana, 2016)
It is important to point out the architects’ intention in mobilizing good personal relations in favour of the project, and by far it has been an instrumental factor in such multiplying effects of the project on local governance. However, although it is not entirely impossible it is not evident that similar effort will result have the same effect in other places of the Bangladesh. To give any conclusion on that issue, an extensive study of contextual, sociopolitical dynamics has to be carried out, especially because these dynamics are extremely complex in Bangladesh.
In a scenario of any development initiative, just as a sense of powerlessness is common in among slum communities, a given sense of power is common among professionals or ‘experts’. According to Elabor-Idemudia, “recognizing the ambiguous consequences of imbalances in power relations between experts and their subjects is the first step towards altering the manner in which knowledge is perceived” .... (Elabor- Idemudia, 2012, p. 230). In this project, a gradual devolution of power among experts has played a critical role in empowering the community.
Even if the project is not surely replicable in other contexts, but this definitely is good start where the support group and the community felt empowered because of the sense of control they gained through increased connection with local government. If seen under the light of Albrechts’ understanding of power, this is a critical transformation,
According to Farzana, the conducts with community was a transformative process for the support group. Within the support group, professionals helped each other to bypass their professional boundaries to gain the trust of community people. How the NGO officials and architects talked to community people also made a difference; it was
2.10. Knowledge is power, but is it really? - Devolution of power among experts as a critical tool
Technical support group Facilitating Community 6
Logistic support group
Community 4 Supporting with skill
Community 1 Community 5 City-wide network
Community organization and municipal partnership for slum-development
Community 2 Community 3
Figure 69: Diagrammatic representation of relationship among city-wide network, external technical assistance and local government in the beginning of project (Adapted from Alam, 2016)
Technical support group
Logistic support group
Community 1 Community 5
Community 4 City-wide network Supporting with skill
Community organization and municipal partnership for slum-development Municipality
Figure 70: Diagrammatic representation of projected relationship among city-wide network, external technical assistance and local government in later stages of the project (Adapted from Alam, 2016)
about carefully deciding to let go of the sense of power or pride that one gains from becoming a professional or expert. Even something simple like conducting meetings in a local veranda sitting together with local people on a bamboo mat instead of the NGO office in a formal manner mattered in this process (Farzana, 2016). Attaching the support groups’ values to the community’s identity is important, especially in a context where poverty is often objectified, even abused. According to Masud, the director of NGO Alive, many NGO and MFI (Microfinance Institution) approach the community with development programs, some of them turn out to be loan programs that do more harm than good to the people, the officials do not carefully control if the borrower will be able to return the money, but act very strictly while collecting instalments, sometimes borrowers have no other way than getting more loans from another such program to pay for it and eventually many people get stuck in an endless chain of loans; some NGOs come with development programs, but only stay around for a short time until they have some pictures or proofs to present to the donor agencies in order to receive funds. Understanding how life is perceived by the community means acting in a flexible manner, where the expert accepts the “politics of difference- as opposed to a politics of othering” (Elabor- Idemudia, 2002). The essence of participation in knowledge construction is well realized in the case of CWHP. This is evident in the stories Farzana has shared about working in the field: “One day, a woman said, I would like to attend the meeting, but now I have to go cut grass to feed my cows. I said, sure you can come back after you are done! You see, I had no idea that it take four hours for this woman to go do this task and come back to her neighborhood! I only understood when I went with a group of women to see how they actually cut grass from the field! Their life is not easy, they work very hard for a living, if you ask me to work like that, I can’t, I don’t know how to do it, physically 60
or emotionally; just as it is not easy for them to sit all day long and decide how to make new houses with the community” (Farzana, 2016) “I remember, at one point we were becoming impatient when the participants were almost everyday late for community meetings, so we asked them why it is difficult for them to appear on time, and one woman said that she doesn’t have a clock at her home, they are not used to use clocks! This was very surprising for us, we knew we have to learn working in their way, we cannot work well with the community if we are too stuck in our ways and our schedule”. (Farzana, 2016) Understanding people in their own place was the first step to mobilize their capabilities into the project in ways that is not disruptive to their lives. According to Farzana, it is important to understand these women, their daily lives; it is difficult for professionals who come from a fast-paced socio-cultural reality, doing this is difficult because they are too eager to see the end-product, but it is important to understand that the development process is slow, if one wants to work in this context they have to match with the pace, be always present in time, place and minds of people. This is similar to the experimental learning methods that Seyfang and Haxeltine discuss about; according to them, change can be achieved through understanding sociological and infrastructural influences on behaviour choicesthe configuration of systems of provision: availability, accessibility, convenience, habit and routine etc. This is an alternative to the educational- information- giving notion of knowledge and skill sharing (Seyfang & Haxeltine, 2012). This transformations are the result of professionals working outside the set norms or expectations defined by their profession. The architects first planned to strengthen a river-side network, they thought this can be a good strategy to work on revitalizing the ecology of the river along with community development. But they didn’t find the right communities there to work with. As
I have discussed before, finding the right community to start with was an important step for the project. The architects had to let go many design-aspirations like this in order to focus on realizing socially-constructed design/ planning process. According to Farzana, the houses as they are now, are not probably the best architectural solution if considered in terms of aesthetics. Because, along the process they realized that it is more important that the process reflected city or community’s need first. Farzana says in her writing, “At some point, I slowed down, and paused, and made myself available for the community in whatever way they might need my assistance. I went beyond my identity; I had to keep changing my hats. I acted in several roles, sometimes as an architect, a social mobilizer(4), a product designer, a business planner and what not!” (Farzana, 2016). Masud said in an interview “We made sure the community is the first body who is involved in the development project and we supported them in every task in the background. It was really important to work together. Now after one year, the houses are almost fully constructed, and because the project was designed in a way that the NGO received very little remuneration, it is not cost-effective for us to spend effort in this project anymore, but we cannot stop altogether to support them. I believe we still have to be there for their assistance”. (Masud, 2016). The impacts brought with the project were a result of a continuous dialectic process; full of disagreements and repeated attempts to achieve a goal of better housing. Active presence, patience, participation and trust in people-led process were important tools in the process. As discussed before, Farzana has expressed that, she has learned many innovative ways of working from the local women. But in order to motivate enthusiasm and ingenuity among local women, the continuous presence of the support group was very important. Social mobilization is a process that is used in community development projects in order to raise awareness and motivate people to put collective efforts to bring change (4)
The support group acted as a mediator, to mobilize the potential of the community and to reach the support from donor organizations and local government. The support group managed to translate the cohesiveness of community as the strongest actor in the process and gradually empowering the community required letting go off a multitude of interests and innovating ways of enrolment.
2.11. Power disputes and Gender issues Even though disagreements and discrepancies were accepted by the support group as a part of the process, several instances of power inequalities should be analysed carefully in order to fully understand the drawbacks of development context at present time in Bangladesh. There had been instances where the community people have acted as if they can be easily demoralized, or even dishonest. Few instances had started with misuse of power by community leaders. Alam discussed her observation about a survey where such lack of integrity is apparent. In the first stage of the project, the NGO carried out a survey to record basic information of each participant household in the community. The survey results showed that the three community leaders have the least monthly income and this is obviously false information. This happened possibly because they thought it would increase their chance of getting fund for housing. Alam suggested that one way to avoid this kind of undesirable occurrence would be to ask the community itself to run this survey, as it is not as easy to be dishonest with one’s neighbour about one’s income. To ensure transparency in the community, the survey results can also be published right away. (Alam, 2016) It’s not too uncommon when community leaders in such projects feel uncomfortable in transferring 61
leadership, as if that would mean letting go off their sense of control or belonging in the community. When the male leader of Mohishakundu was asked to transfer leadership after an instance of mishandling community savings account, he was openly sceptical about leaving responsibility to women, suggesting that women alone are not capable in managing leadership responsibilities (Masud, 2016). The other members (mainly women) did not oppose him very strongly. This is because, since he was assisting the community as a community leader since a long time, especially with obtaining government funds, the community naturally depends on him. This can be and should be seen as a gender issue: although the project is attempting to empower women through participation, women emancipation faces hindrance inside the community because of impacts from other spheres of their lives; personal and social. These women sometimes perceive themselves as less capable then men because they remain victims of cultural construction of oppressing ideas against women, and more than often, the women themselves mobilizes values and norms of patriarchy. For example, generally women who are expressive and vocal otherwise, tend to remain silent in meetings when men in the community are present. The women in Vennatola live more oppressed lives than in other communities-during a meeting in Vennatola, women expressed that in families, even though women are allowed to work indoor to earn money besides their usual homemaking activities, they are highly discouraged, even humiliated if they want to go out and work in the city. In Vennatola, the first group of members in the saving group were all men. Gradually with the support group’s influence, the female counterparts were convinced to join the savings group. If seen in the social setting, even though the community women are very instrumental in the housing development process- not only because they are the only available part of the adult population who stays in the neighborhood after the men leave for work for the whole day; they also demonstrate excellent capability in mapping, facilitating design and construction 62
of houses, managing saving accounts etc.; many practical situations outside the community are dictated by gender inequality. For example, Farzana says that, it is difficult to work as a female architect in a small city like Jhenaidah. There has been instances when the construction workers wouldn’t take her suggestions seriously until it is restated by the male architect. It is easy to imagine if Farzana had to face difficulty even after being an expert from outside, how the social reality would be biased against local slum women who are trying to act outside their normal roles of homemaking. (Farzana, 2016) Such disputes have a self-sabotage impact on the community and can induce frustration among the support group. But nonetheless, in this context, it is not very surprising if this kind of unequal power dynamics start to emerge within the community; or in simple words, the community fails to act cohesively. According to Jacobs, the unslumming process can be disrupted if the community faces obstacles, this disruption make the community regress and go back to the embryonic stage. (Jacobs, 1961) This happens because an unslumming community is still going through a delicate stage of transformation. However, in my opinion, the project has been a successful tool in breaking the stubborn barrier of gender inequality, even if in a slow pace and small scale. Through the housing project, it has been recognized how the active presence of a female architect can bring positive changes, especially in a context like this, where gender barrier is very characteristic to the culture. According to Farzana, she could bond easily with the community, have access to local women’s houses and casual conversations. This helped her to gain access to women’s desires about their houses. Farzana thinks that issue of privacy could be better handled with the design only if she realized earlier how as a female professional she could extract community women’s expectations more carefully (Farzana, 2016) According to Alam, usually in this context, women work around the houses, every day; they have to cook, clean,
feed, bathe in such tight spaces and it is really important to understand women’s workflow in a house in order to design space efficient (hence cost efficient) houses. If the space and infrastructure in the household helps the women complete their daily chores more efficiently, they would have more time for relaxation, recreation and other economic activities (Alam, 2016).
2.12. Final Reflection on the Case “If a community cannot manage money, it is doomed forever to having its development process determined by someone else” -Somsook Boonyabancha, (Skinner, 2014) City-Wide Housing Project is a successful beginning of community-driven slum development. More than concrete visible results as housing or infrastructure, the process has tapped into potential of communities to establish institutional associations and to utilize those to bring positive changes in their lives. However, manifold concerns are felt by relevant professionals. Firstly, monitoring of community activities by a support group (in the case of housing in Mohishakundu, the NGO Alive has been majorly responsible for this)- as I have discussed in previous sections how communities even though emancipated in many ways by harnessing their own knowledge and strengths, fall victim of self-sabotaging patterns, sometimes fail to see the bigger picture or become too cautious out of self-interests and lose faith in cohesiveness. Humble presence of an external support group or assured support from local government has proven helpful for them in staying focused on collective development efforts. Farzana says, “Our relation didn’t end up after building houses; I feel that it’s a start, a happy start for doing more productive things together. Building few houses were just a tool to gather people, to learn to trust each other and build a stronger community” (Farzana, 2016).
community network, POCAA and Alive are successfully strengthening their associations to more organizations from in and outside the country- they have been trying to arrange further funding support from SELAVIP foundation, they have managed to get a Real Estate complany called Suvastu interested in investing in slum development projects etc. With the help of the support group, previous community leaders have now transferred the leadership position to other members in Mohishakundu community, and the community- network is on the way of expansion. But, providing this external support is also not always viable; in the case of Jhenaidah, unless the CDF (City Development Fund) is institutionalized with the help of local government, the community will always need support from externals for the search of funding. This is difficult especially when this professional group itself is assisting the community with little or no remuneration. In the case of Jhenaidah, the local government has already started to recognize and facilitate citizens and local organizations for their effort. But if local government itself is not empowered enough through decentralization, devolution etc., it cannot do much to address the slum problem in the right scale.
As I write about the project, in order to assist the 63
3. An attempt to find answers from cross-disciplinary theoretical analysis
The theoretical framework is based on inter-disciplinary scholarship about the issues at stake for this research. It consists of a three- fold perspective. Firstly, questioning architects’ capacity of understanding development in a broader sense; transcending technical knowledge, business capability and mastership of aesthetics. The second dimension is supporting it with literature about inclusive planning and governance. This can help architects to apply their skills on an alternative stage, necessarily imagining a different economic and social reality; I feel that this is crucial because so many spatial professionals who are keen on thinking about and acting for the development of poor, but are not able to do so because they feel like they are trapped within a system and it is not in their capacity to act. The third dimension of the framework draws theoretical insights from development theories, human geography etc. in order to develop critical understanding of participatory development process, what in the ground makes any project successful and what results in failure- the gaps between design and implementation of development projects.
3.1. Architects’ role in development De Carlo argues in his article Architecture’s Public that, the studies of architecture has been developed in a way that it will eventually produce professionals who lack the understanding of social transformations. De Carlo (2005) says, “The very school for the preparation of architects was born out of an ambiguous coupling of art and technology, destined inevitably to generate a sterile species…Forced into an inorganic coexistence, both academic art and applied technology retarded the scientific transformation of the architectural discipline and interrupted its contacts with social transformations” (p. 4). He argues that, the architect has always been subject to the world view of those in power. His interpretation of an architect’s duty which is “limited to the study and application of the building technology” and an architect’s ambition of finding 64
Theories of Planning Institutional Aspects of planning Power relations Inclusive planning Social construction of Planning Social Innovation Strategic Spatial Planning Transactive Planning
Critical discourses on Architecture practice, Urbanism Architecture as a social act Housing by People Participatiory Design Community Development
Development Theories Human geography Participatory development projects Participatory research Empowerment Poverty Slums Consensual politics Post-Politics Post-structural theory
Figure 71: Diagrammatic representation of selection of theories (Author) 65
“both dignity and his payment as long as he did not worry about motivations and consequences” (De Carlo, 2005) in the Bourgeois society are not fundamentally alien in the contemporary context of Bangladeshi cities, where the market for Architects’ works are ruled by capitalism. This discussion relates to the questions central to this research: Are architects, in our context powerless subjects of the prevailing economic and political system? Or can they really use their skills and capacities to bring change? Is architecture only a practice which is technically determined and based on rarefied aesthetics or is it possible to extend architecture’s capacity in developing discourses about social inclusion? In the discourse of community architecture , participation is a recurrent theme. In their book, Architecture and Participation, Petrescu and her colleagues attempt to discuss the tension around the idea of participation in architecture. “Participation is a buzz word in the European context”, they say (Petrescu, Jones, & Till, 2005). They define participation as involvement of the user at some stage in the design process and according to them, “participation can effectively address the gap of design and reality through involving the user in the early stages of architectural production, leading to an environment that not only has a sense of ownership but is also more responsive to change”. (Petrescu, Jones, & Till, 2005) The trend of user participation in city-wide planning is becoming more appreciated now in the planning practices in Bangladesh. Within these practices there is often an uncritical, over-optimistic attitude about participation as a process, where its true potential and application is not realized and participation is being used for the sake of it; and creates critical attitude outside the practice and cause a sense of collective despair inside the practice. Petrescu and her colleagues’ book Architecture and Participation is a collection of cases and thoughts around the process of participation in Architecture and provides useful insights for analysis of my case studies. According to them, the 66
involvement of users in an architecture project, sometimes “is a token, bringing a worthiness to the architectural process instead of really transforming it.” It has to be realized that participation does not guarantee social sustainability, and that with user participation in practice there are manifold risks and uncertainty.
3.2. Inclusive planning approaches Architects understand superbly the matter of a subject being contained in its context (a building within its site, users of architecture within the three dimensional space designed for them and so on), yet there is a sense of difficulty when we ask ourselves how our work fits in a broader socio-political system, and how or whether it reflects the ideologies we believe in, or want to believe in. The discussions about Strategic Planning, Social Innovation, and Local Innovation etc. gives a framework for inclusive planning as opposed to conventional policies and market-led economies in different contexts of the world. Furthermore, because many development projects function beyond a set way of client-architect-user structure, especially the projects which aims for city-wide neighborhood development, a study of the institutional aspects of planning offers a framework for understanding the complex network and dynamics that professionals have to function within. As empathic designers, community architects often intuitively decides a design direction, but struggle nonetheless to find an ideological platform on which they could start ‘selling’ their ideas aimed at societal transformation instead of economic gain.
3.2.1. Strategic planning Albrechts in his writings about Strategic Spatial Planning has insisted a shift in planning style which is based on designing “shared futures and the development and promotion of common assets.” The essence of SSP is also to find alternative approaches to “instrumental rationality that encourages an analysis of trends and extrapolates
them in order to arrive at conceptions of social and economic futures” (Albrechts, 2004). This alternative way refers to value rationality, a method of making dialogues where values based images, which are embedded in specific contexts are generated collectively, validated by belief, practice and experience. This method is a reaction to the trend of making “future that extrapolated the past, and maintains the status quo”. This approach includes reaching the ‘other’ part of the population, who are victim of prejudice and exclusion; and giving them the power to create their own image, and to take into account the “unequal balances of power” (Albrechts, 2004). Re-imagining planning approach would also require, according to Albrechts, the flexibility in “‘rescaling’ of issue agendas down from the national scale or state level and up from the municipal level” and “attempts to widen the range of actors involved in policy processes, with new alliances, stakeholder partnerships, and consultative processes”. If interpreted for a case of city-scale community development project, this kind of horizontal and vertical decentralization and open-ended decision making process is useful as a framework. Furthermore, imagining a value based planning system even when it is not present, gives spatial professionals a scope to rethink and redefine their work approach. In Hillier and her colleagues’ interpretation of poststructuralist forms of strategic planning, recognition of power relations between actants is significant. This is achieved through working with change rather than controlling of ignoring new dynamics and accompanying tensions. According to Hillier et. al, “Strategic planning practitioners should not try to avoid uncertainty, but rather embrace it as a core component of their worlds.” (Hillier et. al, 2011)
3.2.2. Social innovation The ideas developed on Social Innovation in planning confirms the ideas of Strategic planning. Socially innovative planning is based on “spontaneous mobilization of people against their exclusion, their alienation, the deprivation of resources caused by capitalism, by personal isolation, by difficult social circumstances, by environmental and economic changes” (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, 2013, p. 18). The overarching goal of socially innovative process and practice is to “imagine and pursue a world, a nation, a locality, a community that would grant universal rights and be more socially inclusive”. (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, 2013, p. 16) In order to bring the desired social inclusion, socially innovative practices react against conservative forces of institutionalization and legitimization which gives power to the privileged group of agents or institutions and thus confirms the situation of exclusion, deprivation, alienation and lack of wellbeing of the marginalized part of the society. An important aspect of SI is building capacity in people to understand the social relations and power dynamics they are ruled by, and when necessary be able to change it. These social relations include- “micro relations between individuals and people, but also macro relations between classes and other social groups” (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, 2013) Understanding the social relations includes to understanding the role of different actors and stakeholders in a development effort. Socially Innovative projects are “considered as path dependent and contextual…refers to the changes and agendas, agency and institutions that lead to a better inclusion of excluded groups and individuals into various fields of societies at various spatial scales.” (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, 2013). The contextual character refers to the process being “open to a variety of interpretations and in practice, an outcome of social construction” (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, p. 17). “it recognizes 67
the idea of holistic, emergent order, qualities as much as quantities, and asserts the primacy of processes over events, of relationships over entities and of development over structure” (Moulaert, Mac Callum, & Hillier, 2013, p. 21); the open-ended nature of socially innovative processes makes possible societies to achieve transformation in more bottom-up, creative and participative ways. In many community development projects, the trajectory design might be quite similar to socially innovative practices but in practice when the project is running on the field, it becomes difficult for stakeholders, actors, researchers or even community leaders themselves, to unlearn the conventional ways and relearn the alternative ones. Very often, architects with central expertise of technical skills working on an executive level have to act as a mediator between the community and the governance, and if they have a direction of these planning approaches, they can steer the project more efficiently. An important aspect of social innovation is changing governance relations. According to Moulaert and his colleagues, this involves reflecting and acting on the social power relations within the community and between the “local community and civil society, institutional and private actors…” (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010, p. 202). This process can be initiated from below, as a reaction to oppressing forces; but it can be also a form of “successful ‘top-down’ experiment” (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010, p. 202). If this is not perceived realistically, it is easy to think about bottom-up and top-down approaches in a dualistic manner, and from this dangerous ‘romantic bias’ may develop towards local action, administrative devolution and decentralization. The authors interpret the mechanistic association between attributes and scales; i.e. local development can only be successful if started from within communities, because communities are “the locus of immediate human interaction”- as a poor sociopolitical geographical analysis. So, only if forces of change develops within the community (regardless of which scale (regional or local) it was initiated and controlled from), political 68
empowerment or decentralization of governance will work in reality (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2010).
3.2.3. Social construction of planning The interpretation of planning systems with an actorstructure perspective by Van den Broeck and Servillo in their article, The Social Construction of Planning Systems: A Strategic-Relational Institutionalist Approach, provides with an understanding of dialectic interplay of agency and institutions shaping the specificities of planning systems, and thus influencing external changes. (Van Den Broeck & Servillo, 2012). The reading illustrates how construction of planning systems is motivated by societal change, and have been transplanted and appropriated in similar yet different contexts. In this reading, institutions are perceived as responses of a range of social rationalities, being shaped or transformed by its actors: actors who are part of or related to, constrained, given privilege or empowered by the institutions. According to the authors, along with its technical role of economic and social development, changed courses of spatial planning also focus on democratic decision-making process, empower weaker groups; changes in actors and social groups and their positions and practices also bring complex changes in relevant institutions and agency. These dynamics can be interpreted as the effect of non-dominant groups challenging the dominant group in planning system. They argue that dialectic among hegemonic and counterhegemonic groups have transformative power in planning system, because counter-hegemonic groups are able to bring changes in institutional frames through action.
3.3. The dilemma of power in the field To understand the dynamics between hegemonic- nonhegemonic groups in planning, I have developed a broader understanding about power in planning. A major concern in the development process lies in the asymmetrical power relations between experts, governance and community. This is relevant for the cases of this research, where numerous efforts of integrated communication with the community fail because of gap in the relationship between the project experts and the beneficiaries. This gap results from asymmetrical power relations in different groups related to the project. Even the most democratic project might suffer from problems of discrimination based on social, economic, political status. These problems are especially visible in the methodologies of participatory processes. Metzger and his colleagues claim in their analysis that the power is an “outcome of social processes rather than as a causal variable behind them.” (Metzger, Soneryd, & Hallström, 2016). They illustrate with a case study, how “acute attentiveness to the micro-physics of power play across multiple fault lines” instead of “strong assumptions regarding the dominance of pre-existing powerful actorconstellations” can be more helpful in understanding of power relations in planning. Their analysis challenges the biased focus on the apparent availability of resources as determinant of power in a planning setting, and argues against power relationships being reinvested, reinforced in every micro-situation in a similar pattern. By deconstructing the notion of power as determinant of physical, social, political realities; their study aims to investigate the factors that power itself is made of, and by doing this, eventually understand possibility and pattern of shift in traditional power relations.
Metzger and his colleagues see Bruno Latour’s interpretation of power in Actor Network Theory as a useful starting point, especially because in ANT the shift in power relation starts with identifying sources of power; and thus achieve an understanding of the process of enacting and harnessing power. A reflection of their research case study establishes that, power can be achieved by a non-dominant group of actors by “practical inventions translated/inserted in specific ecologies of action” and thus creating “effects that can be labeled as power”. The study of power in planning is thus established to be eventually, socially embedded, because drawing from the ANT theory, the obvious reserve of power might not generate enough influence in reality. In Albrechts’ study of power in planning, he argues that planning is essentially shaped by complicated power relations and because the dominant interests are not necessarily always is in line with the “force of better argument”; the process of negotiations among plan-making actors, decision-making actors and implementation actors usually results in a consensus which neutralizes important/ significant opinions. His study of power in planning highlights the importance of recognizing power relations especially because the field of planning has evolved to be dominated by a plurality of actors with different, and competing interests, goals and strategies. Albrecht has argued that in such a field of plurality, it is important that different actors not only focus on collective/ individual goals and strategies but also recognizes social, intellectual, and political capital built in the process of negotiation. This can be related to and restated in Moulaert and his colleagues’ understanding about negotiative processes of transformation of power“the tensions between bottom-up mobilization and institutionalization, creativity and bureaucratization, between specific community interest and broader welfare institutions must be considered an asset and the fuel for sustaining social innovation” . (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2013). 69
An important reflection is also built with Albrechts’ view on citizen’s ambivalence on power system; according to him, the citizens are not convinced of the power of informal structures and frameworks in shaping the flow of events in planning field. He establishes that, although dominant power relations are not easy to change, empowerment has the potential to support collective efforts to change such relations. Albrechts argues that spatial planning, with the help of a number of mediating instruments and processes can take steps forward to achieve participative democracy.
The approach of identifying each element (actor, resource or entity) and their interactive relationship is useful in comprehension of a planning or design process that involves a multitude of social-political-economic factors; especially when the technical capacity of spatial professionals does not suffice to implement development projects. The approach of recognizing uncertainty in the dynamics of elements also helps in comprehending the practice of community architecture as a practice beyond technical consultancy.
3.4. Understanding development in terms of actors and networks
In Boelen’s interpretation, ANT also explains the power dynamics between actors; a specific actor may become more dominant than others and try to shape the actions in his/her/its advantage. This actor is called the ‘actant’ and it can be a human or non-human entity. According to ANT, the course of action follows the requirements of all the actors but definitely in line of the wish of the most dominant actor. This is because the dominant power is able to translate the objective, limitations and opportunities of other actors. For example, in the context of a community development project, the community and the designer have come to an agreement about design, building process, finance etc. But due to shortage of money, they have to ask help from a political leader who can arrange funds through his/her connections. Now, if the political leader sees a benefit in this situation, which is rather disruptive to the wish of the community and the designer, and this leader is also able to manipulate the community, the course of action that was previously agreed upon might fall apart. In this case, the leader who was invited into the project at some point became the dominant actor and translated other actors’ objectives into his own.
The emerging practice of community architecture is signified by a relational network of people. This network helps the practice to sustain and grow. The theory of Actor Relational Approach (ARA) by Luuk Boelen has been useful in developing my understanding about this network- how the network (inter- dependent relationships) motivates its actors to function outside the norm, and more importantly, which dynamics of the network motivates and impedes the growth of capacity and motivation among actors. ARA has evolved closely to the features of Actor network Theory (ANT). It sketches out the significance of actors and relations in any social network in the context of planning. The objective of ARA is to provide guidelines that can help in understanding these relationships and mobilize or resemble them for solving planning problems in innovative ways. Boelen’s theory of ARA states that, every social action is fundamentally relational, and only a result of specific connection between people and resources. (Boelens, 2009). According to Boelen’s interpretation of ANT, how important a person, an entity or a resource is for an action- cannot be presumed beforehand, e.g. In a planning context, even if consensus among human actors, capacity and resources are present, there might be a lack of financial means; and that would hinder the planning process. 70
However, a different scenario can also be imagined, for example, the community and the designer may decide to settle on a less ambitious plan, may be to build 10 houses instead of 20, with whatever fund they have in their hand; this would require strengthening solidarity inside the community because to choose which 10 families should be prioritized, they have to be more strategic among
themselves and have to be willing to sacrifice for achieving a goal that would not serve everyone involved immediately; and after building the 10 houses, the city mayor might feel enthusiastic and arrange more fund for the community. So in this case, the community managed to stay the dominant actor and translate their own shortcoming (lack of enough fund) into an opportunity (strengthened solidarity or developed planning skills). In Boelens’ translation, ANT is a form of ‘sociological epistemology’ which views spatial relations in the form of network relation; thus time-space configurations are shaped by relations in networks. So the projection of ANT in spatial planning would focus majorly on the “process of network building in which entities of various kinds are assembled in ways that allow networks to undertake certain functions”. (Boelens, 2009, p. 191) Boelens mentions an application of ANT theory in a planning initiative by Michel Callon. This application is shaped by for steps of translation of actor networks. These are: Problematization, Interest, Enrolment and Mobilization of allies. (Boelens, 2009, p. 191) Problematization is the step to identify relevant actors related to problem that requires a solution. In this step, it should be checked if there are representative spokespeople for specific different group in the problem context. Interest is the step to analyse the interests that the identified actors have in the project and how/if their interest will be served. Enrolment is identifying the actors’ capacities that can utilize resources and be converted into potential actions in order to serve their own or the network’s interest. This step also investigates whether common interests can form associations. Mobilization of allies is the process of visualizing the network in a broader setting; in a way this can be about broadening the network further- in order to mobilize
further necessary resources or build useful connections. This process can also include reflecting if the spokespeople are actually representing their respective groups. Boelens discusses the limitations of the theory of ANT and its further scholarly developments – he says that the theory of ANT develops with a predominant tendency of only analyzing phenomena (in the form social relations) in its original setting; as in the “actor network theorists are much reluctant and cautious to take any normative, proactive stance”; (Boelens, 2009, p. 192). This as an epistemological guideline is not enough for the field of planning where the main focus is to develop ideas and theories, and translating them into real actions and make improvements for the future. However, because of the strong analytical tendency, the theory developments in line with ANT conforms the post-structuralist planning approaches and can be an useful tool in inclusive planning where understanding the actor dynamics is necessary.
3.5. “Unslumming and slumming”, what makes people go the extra mile for changing their situation? “Why slum dwellers should stay in a slum by choice, after it is no longer economically necessary, has to do with the most personal content of their lives…the choice has much to do with the slum dwellers personal attachments to other people, with the regard in which they believe they are held in the neighborhood, and in which their sense of values as to what is of greater and what is of lesser importance in their lives.” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 271) It is important to understand what factors introduce the interest among the communities in developing their living environment. I have developed important insights from Jane Jacobs’ writings on slums in Boston. Although her case is very different from my cases according to time and place, her analysis of social dynamics in an urban slum 71
can give useful approach of looking at the development projects I have analysed. In her book, The Death or Life of Great American Cities, she has introduced this term, ‘unslumming’. Unslumming is defined as the process of transformation of state in a slum community, through which a slum community develops and a major proportion of the community willingly starts to put individual and collective effort in developing their physical and social living environment. This process takes place through heightening individual families’ sense of ambition and solidarity in the community. According to Jacobs, the physical space that a slum is and the people who live there continuously reinforce a cycle of trouble; and to understand this cycle is not an easy task because in such places “cause and effect become confused precisely because they do link and re-link with one another in such complicated ways” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 271) ; for example, lack of good living environment can contribute in producing youths who are aggressive and distrustful, these youths will probably aggravate the dysfunctionality of social environment in the community all their adult life- in this social situation, some youths who manage to grow as comparably accomplished adults will probably want to escape this social situation for good and leave the slum with his/her family; to fill this vacant place will appear another family who is financially and/or otherwise challenged and much more likely to fall victim of dysfunctional social environment that exist in the slum; and thus the cycle will continue. Jacob says, to break this cycle “is no simple matter of supplying better housing, and If it is broken, a slum spontaneously unslums”. (Jacobs, 1961, p. 271). In an unslumming community this vicious cycle would be already broken, meaning even though there are some negative aspects in the living environment, a major portion of the population wants to stay and develop their condition within their neighborhood. Jacobs has explained very well the important factor that makes people develop their condition in slums; it’s their attachment to other people, 72
this is something that construct the sense of belonging in people and underpins the priorities in their lives. Jacobs says, “people who do stay in an unslumming slum, and improve their lot within the neighborhood, often profess an intense attachment to their street neighborhood. They seem to think that their neighborhood is unique and irreplaceable in all the world, and remarkably valuable in spite of its shortcomings.” (Jacobs, 1961) Not only accomplished people choose to stay and develop within their own communities, new people are accommodated in unslummed neighborhoods who will gradually be assimilated into the community, welcome into the community with trust that has been established through collective growth. So, it is important to recognize during a development initiative if there is this attachment present or not, and if not, the design/development process should consist of generating this sense of attachment and solidarity; when there is the attachment, the next step is to enact the capabilities of understanding and acting upon their own self interests. According to Jacobs, it is important to “discern, respect and build upon the forces of regeneration that exist in slums themselves” (Jacobs, 1961). The multitude of human relationships in a slum community, how they grow in their aspiration together, also gives shape to their unique socio-physical environment; how people use space individually and collectively, the noise and fragrance of a neighborhood, how people share, control, sacrifice resources and organize activities among neighbors and in the community- all these aspects indeed make an unslumming neighborhood an unreproducible reality. This physical reality is intricate and uniquely different in each unslumming community, and these are also resources that any development project should maximize and valorize; thus making the process resource efficient and responsive to inhabitants’ usage of social and physical space. Jacobs also projects light on how this approach of understanding the people in their setting is often times very different from conventional planning which adopts
a paternalistic approach; she says that “the problem with paternalists is that they want to make impossibly profound changes, and they choose impossible superficial means for doing so.” (Jacobs, 1961, p.287) Jacobs says that, diversity is also an essential element in the process of unslumming, because the more energetic and ambitious inhabitants will eventually lose interest in developing their condition within a dull neighborhood, and youths who can, will inevitably desert the neighborhood. Growth of solidarity and trust would motivate people to stay and develop within the neighborhood. The different levels of financial and education gain will create diversity; at one point, even if all inhabitants do not make the same amount of development, in an unslumming community the sense of solidarity will help people transcend the stagnant situation of collective misery; even the people who make no considerable gain for themselves will be able to live in a better environment. This process is similar to generating city diversity, but in the scale of a neighborhood; and in any development program for a slum where a spontaneous unslumming has already started, the task is to motivate this process to continue. Jacobs says that if there are too many obstacles- the unslumming process is discouraged or disrupted in the way of making changes, the community can regress and go back to the embryonic stage of perpetual misery and isolation. This regression can take place in both planned and unplanned slums.
3.6. Innovative learning in sociotechnical transformation Although participation has recently come to be recognized as an absolute imperative for the development of both mainstream and alternative development strategies, it has remained an elusive concept. It has, instead translated into multiple meanings and has been connected to multiple methods of implementation with disappointing results. A part of the blame can be assigned to ‘expert’ or professionals on the field- how they place themselves in the context, what they want to promote and how they interpret the message received from the community. Elabor-Idemudia argues in her article that, development experts “tend to promote development programs that conform to top-down, core- periphery, center-outward biases of knowledge that afford no conceptual space for the complex and sometimes problematic relationship between them and the target groups they are addressing.” She also says, “The role and position of researchers/experts and the targets of development are often contradictory. Despite occupying positions of considerable status, power, privilege and authority in the eyes of local people, the role of experts may seem of dubious value” (Elabor- Idemudia, 2002, p. 229). She says that, understanding the imbalances in power relations between researchers and their subjects is a first step towards altering the manner in which knowledge is perceived. (Elabor- Idemudia, 2002) Seyfang and Haxeltine discuss in their paper how experimental learning strategies can be adopted in grassroot innovation projects aimed at sustainable development. Their analysis develops with a case study project in the context of UK which aims to influence sociotechnical transformations for adopting sustainable lifestyle options. Seyfang and Haxeltine question the efficiency of educational- information- giving notion of promoting sustainable development: “But is changing minds necessary in order to change behavior?” (Seyfang & Haxeltine, 2012, 73
p. 394). They argue that to bring change, development projects should consider more the social and psychological aspects of decision-making; meeting needs such as identity, self-expression, belonging, aspiration and recognition. To understand why people choose to pursue a set of methods rather than another, it is important to understand the sociological and infrastructural influences on behaviour choices- this means understanding the configuration of systems of provision: availability, accessibility, convenience, habit and routine etc.
3.7. Post-political development, a reflection on consensus building practices “Consensus gains the passivity of people, not their active participation. It is in the sense exclusionary and encourages independence rather than inter-dependence. It encourages non-participation”- Nabeel Hamdi (Hamdi, 2004, p. 137) An important question that made me embark on the research journey was, “does participatory design really work?” To understand why participation always do not work, I needed to understand why participation alone does not work. This is precisely because, in the field of participatory design/planning, it is accepted uncritically. This has become a buzzword, something which certifies professionals’ capacity of socially responsive design/ planning. Reading on post politics has served me with understanding of why only consensus building is not enough in establishing rights and justice. I have used Jonathan Metzger’s discussion on post-politics for building the basic theoretical understanding and Irina Velicu and Maria Kaika’s (2014) writing on participation and environmental justice in order to develop a case-based comprehension 74
about the gap that exists between theory and practice of participatory planning/design. In his presentation on post-politics, Metzger explains how post-politics refers to a number of aspects of contemporary planning practices that are deficient in many perspectives; these practices have an uncritical attitude towards partnership governance and participatory consensus building. Although the process of participation is supposed to bring clarity of opinion from different actor groups; participatory planning might instead result in nightmarishly complex governance arrangements, making it difficult to clearly understand, analyze and reproduce the processes with success. Because many different actors are involved and their interest, stake and enrolment is not always clearly sketched out, it becomes difficult to assign authority to actions. The literature on post-politics also highlights how participatory planning might sometimes be used as a mean to suppress dissent on difficult issues; this happens because all actors sitting around a table are not given equal right of say what they have in mind. Thus in reality, participatory process only serve a part of the purpose, not the whole of it- it might bring people who were deprived of right of opinion in the scene, but the agenda of discussion might not allow everyone to properly voice their concern, and at the end of the day, it’s the most powerful actor whose interest will be served. This way consensus building only works as a way of social control by reducing the possibility for other actors to oppose the most powerful actor. Metzger has discussed the theoretical ideas on postpolitics by different scholars. One of them is Belgian political theorist Chantal Mouffee, she has introduced the ‘politics’ and ‘political’ as two separate entities. Politics refers to procedures carried out and through the act of governance and ‘Political’ “refers to the various fundamental conflict lines that run through any given society…an ubiquitous feature of society which risks to explode into violent confrontation at any time unless
recognized and constructively engaged with”. (Metzger, 2016) An important aspect of the post-political approach is the recognition of this conflict of interest and accepting that the political difference should not be suppressed, rather expressed on public platform, so that they are “explored and articulated in ways that can contribute to “taming” potentially violent antagonism into democratically productive agonism” (Metzger, 2016). Agonism allows for “fundamentally opposed political ideals and interests to play out against each other in democratically acceptable forms based on – if not sympathy or understanding – at least a mutual recognition of legitimacy and respect for difference” (Metzger, 2016). Post-politics is a response to the situation where politics (institutions) serve as “mere managerial apparatus” and suppresses the political; it takes shape as a form of governance which in theory is democratic but in practice hinders political growth. Irina Velicu and Maria Kaika’s paper animates the story of years long anti-mining struggles in Rosia Montana, Romania. They have explored the limitation of “‘traditional’ forms of justice- dialogic consensual politics”, and showed how more radical demands for socio-ecological change can expose incompetence of the system. The essence of RosiaMontana struggle was going beyond consensus building exercises “between pre-defined and pre-selected sets of actors with pre-conceived and fixed identities”. This is a struggle that goes beyond “recognition, participation and redistribution” (Velicu & Kaika, 2014, p. 10). The government had already decided to assist the Canadian mining company in every way possible, even in the cost of severe socio-ecological damage that RosiaMontana had to suffer from. The local villagers were made jobless, their families were broken and although they were apparently asked to participate in dialogues to establish terms of compensation, their ideas were more than often ridiculed and rejected. They challenged their daily routine to extend their intellectual capacity in order to
understand the situation properly, so that they will be fully aware of the cause they will be fighting for. Participants felt that meetings were exclusive and the moderators opposed critical voices. Although much damage was already done over the years, a group of local activists with the support of national and international organizations, were successful in put a halt to the mining activities. This started to happen when the Rosieni realized at some point that the invitation to participate was only customary, void of real meaning, just “a box that the city’s mayor and corporate representatives had to tick to prove compliance with international norms and perceptions of environmental justice” (Velicu & Kaika, 2014, p. 5). Eventually, activists refused to attend meetings, compensation proposals, they sought to redefine their own positions and identities as defined by the government by opposing against how they were treated in meetings. Changing pre-set power relations within the actor network and reshaping the subjective position of actors was a difficult yet essential step in this struggle. Velicu and Kaika analyses the case with a theoretical basis adopted from Jacques Rancière’s writings on postpolitics. Rancière argues about consensual politics that, “within an established framework, disagreement can only be articulated around opinions and values or around best solutions for a contested situation. The situation itself, the framework itself within which this dialogue operates (e.g. Continuous development, neoliberalism, etc.) is not (supposed to be) contested” (Velicu & Kaika, 2014, p.3). To extend the meaning, development or justice is incomplete if it is only based on “recognition/ participation, fair distribution or basic human rights”, if it does not account for “the loss of a subject’s or group’s world/life experience”; and does not allow critical reflection. According to Velicu and Kaika, what impedes this kind of struggle for justice is the “pre-conceived rationality (currently that of ‘the market’, of development, or of growth)”; this means those who are challenging the prevailing system are seen as irrational and in the Rosia75
Montana case, a process of subjectification- an idea introduced by Ranciere when ‘objects’ of policy become conscious political subjects; those perceived by power as ‘mere animals’ became political animals; by re-asserting what is ‘reasonable’- helped them to establish and fulfill their demands (Velicu & Kaika, 2014).
Conclusion “We now know the truth is somewhere between large organizations and small ones, centralized and decentralized, more government regulations and less government control...Variety not standardization, is the measure of equity and efficiency. Governance, not government, is how to manage it all.”- Nabeel Hamdi (Hamdi, 2004, p.139) I started the research with two objectives. The first one is -through case study analysis, understanding architects’ role in shaping the social-relational dynamics that functions as a deciding factor in the community development projects. The second one is- with a developed understanding of theories from different disciplines, attempting to answer questions that challenges community architects’ capacities in city-wide slum-improvement projects. In the first case, although the consultant teams on the field enjoyed freedom to decide and direct what happens on the field, the power to modify important variables remained practically on NHA and World Bank. Even though the architects attempted to translate the power dynamics in the favour of communities, a perplexing amount of socio-institutional complexities hindered the process. So the project, even with a community-driven approach in the design remained very hierarchical, especially in the exercise of power. My professional experience in PPSIP led me to believe that with such top-down initiatives and centralized organization and institutionalization of programs it is hardly possible to meet the needs of marginalized groups, simply because, as Friedman says, “professionalization...is almost always dis-empowering” (Friedman, 1992, p.158); in other words, the power that professionals gain from formal training and practice makes it difficult for them to connect with the beneficiary group, whereas local initiatives (such as the JBM upgrading project(1)) are more (1)
Briefly discussed in the introduction (p. 8)
successful in addressing locals’ need because leaders and initiators emerge from the same place as the beneficiaries. However, this is not necessarily true as some top-down initiatives can also bring considerable impacts (e.g. UPPReven though the practice of power is not so egalitarian in UPPR, the efforts of the project in issuing development through community empowerment is undoubtedly more effective than its’ preceding efforts). On the other hand without enough funding and institutional support local efforts face difficulty to survive. So , we can say that in the case of PPSIP it is not the institutional arrangement that was problematic, it is the mutual lack of understanding among stakeholders about each others interest, enrolment etc. that led to a process devoid of any desirable product. In the second case, City-Wide Housing Project in Jhenaidah was performed with flexible management, translation of power was made possible with the project. The beneficiary community was empowered in three scales; within the community- through transparent leadership management, members realized that anyone can represent the community if the person is skilled and can stand up for his/her community; between the community and the experts- the community has come to believe that they can envision changes through developing their own technical skills; and between the community, and private and public institutions- the community came to believe that they can approach institutions for assistance, the circle of support in their perception has now broadened. The project has undoubtedly proven to local government that change is within people’s grasp when resources are used with best intents. However, we are yet to see if in future, scaling up of the project proves as successful as other ACHR projects, especially when the government bureaucracy in Bangladesh is under question. My worry can be better expressed in Friedmann’s argument on power in the development scenario of global south. Friedmann says, “when scaling up may be desirable 77
from the standpoint of conventional effectiveness criteria in project management, it poses considerable dangers. Scaled-up organization acquires bureaucratic features, power tends to drift upward...and cooption of popular organizations by a powerful state is likely” (Friedmann, 1992, p. 158) Friedmann has discussed with examples that in order to scale-up development projects, it has to be controlled carefully that some important characteristics of locally initiated development projects are retained; these arethe “informal internal structure”, “reliance on moral incentives” and “autonomy from state” (Friedmann, 1992). Moulaert and his colleagues’ conclude about the dilemma of scale of social movements that- “despite the fact they are often discursively earmarked as such, scales are not ethically constructed, nor do they reflect an ethically constructed hierarchy (e.g. what the local does is more in tune to peoples needs)” (Moulaert, Martinelli, & Gonzalez, 2013). This research has allowed me to develop understanding on important social and institutional realities that is significant for city-wide slum development projects. However, most interviews made during desk-research period, specially in the case of PPSIP, were of my former co-workers. Even though the interviews provided me with valuable insights, because I share with them similar academic background and approach to issues at stake, my findings were limited. My analysis would be more objective if I could perform interviews of my employers/ co-workers from the social research team (BIGD)/ architects from UPPRP project/ consultants from World Bank and so on. I believe, those additional discussions would allow me to shed light on other important issues. One such issue is land. Housing shortage results in increase in land price, and land use regulations in Bangladesh are not usually in favour of the poor population. Difficult bureaucracy makes land acquisition for slums communities 78
very challenging. Although facilitation of land acquisition and policy reformation is an important component of PPSIP, because the pilot phase deliberately dealt with only communities with legal access to land/ without any land conflict; the efforts that were made on studying the land situation remained outside the focus of discussion in the field and also in my research.
Bibliography Interviews Abonee, Ishita Alam. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 30 May 2016. Alam, Mahmuda. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 30 April 2016. Ara, Yasmin. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 01 August 2016. Arefin, Kazi. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 30 June 2016. Farzana, Suhailey. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 20 June 2016. Islam, Sumaiya Rufida. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 16 June 2016. Mahmuda. Group discussion at Mohishakundu Shoashanpara Emerald Upoma Baidya. 29 February 2016. Masud, Mehedee. Interview. Emerald Upoma Baidya. 28 February 2016. Project Participants in Arappur Daspara. Group discussion about City-wide Housing Project, Jhinaidah Emerald Upoma Baidya. 28 February 2016. Roy, Ajit. Interview. Emerald Upom Baidya. 20 June 2016.
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Friedmann, John. Empowerment: The Politics of Alternative Development. Massachussetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. Gittell, Ross and Avis Vidal. Community Organizing: Building Social Capital as a Development Strategy. 1957. Hamdi, Nabeel. “Playing Games- Serious Games.” Hamdi, Nabeel. Small Change: About the art of practice and limits of planning in cities. London: Earthscan, 2004. 130-141. Hillier, Jean, et al. “Strategic spatial planning in uncertainty: theory and exploratory practice.” TPR (2011): 481-501. Hossain, Shahadat. Urban Poverty in Bangladesh: Slum Communities, Migration and Social Integration. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2011. Jacobs, Jane. “Slumming And Unslumming.” Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Pelican Books, 1961. 285-304. Jonas, Andrew E. G. “Pro Scale: Further Reflections on the ‘Scale Debate’ in Human Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2006): 399-406. Jones, Paul. “Putting Architecture in its Social Place: A Cultural Political Economy of Architecture.” Urban Studies (2009): 25192536. Julia Gerometta, Hartmut Haussermann, and Giulia Longo. 80
Metzger, Jonathan. “Postpolitics: the great uncanny of contemporary planning?” Leuven, 2016. Moulaert, Frank, Diana Mac Callum and Jean Hillier. “Social innovation: intuition, precept, concept, theory and practice.” The International Handbook on Social Innovation: Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinaty Research. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2013. Moulaert, Frank, Flavia Martinelli and Sara Gonzalez. “Creatively designing urban futures.” Moulaert, Frank, et al. CAN NEIGHBORHOODS SAVE THE CITY? Ed. Frank Moulaert, et al. New York: Routledge, 2010. 198-218. Parpart, Jane. “Lessons from the Field: Rethinking Empowerment, Gender and Development from a Post- (Post?) Development Perspective.” Feminist Post-Development Thought: Rethinking Modernity, Post-Colonialism and Representation. London: Zed Book Ltd, 2002. 41-56. Petrescu, Doina, Blundell Peter Jones and Jeremy Till. Architecture and Participation. Taylor and Francis, 2005. Roushan, Nazia. community architects network. 2014. <ht t p: //communit y architec t snet work .info/ac tions- de . php?id=6&ic=1&is=2>. Seventh Five Year Plan (FY16-20) . n.d. <http://www. plancomm.gov.bd/wpcontent/>.
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Skinner, Reinhard . A Practical Guide to Designing, Planning, and Executing Citywide Slum Upgrading Programmes. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlements Programme 2014, 2014. SOCIAL ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORKREPORT. National Housing Authority, Ministry of Housing and Public Works, 2014. Unlimited Dreams in Limited Space, Feasibility Study for establishing a Community Centre at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp in Dhaka. n.d. Thana Nirbahi Officer. 6 January 2015. <http://en.banglapedia. org/index.php?title=Thana_Nirbahi_Officer>. Theodore, Geogeen. “Advocacy? Three Modes of Operation for the Activist Architect.” field (n.d.): 60-74. Turner, John F.C. Housing by People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments. 1976. UPPR. “Poor Settlements in Bangladesh: an assessment of 29 UPPR towns and cities Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction.” 2011. Van Den Broeck, Pieter and Loris Antonio Servillo. “The Social Construction of Planning Systems: A Strategic-Relational Institutionalist Approach.” Planning (2012): 41-61. Velicu, Irina and Maria Kaika. “Undoing environmental justice: Re-imagining equality in the Rosia.” Geoforum (2014). Voß, Jan-Peter and Basil Bornemann. “The politics of reflexive governance: challenges for designing adaptive management and transition management.” Ecology and Society : a Journal of Integrative Science for Resilience and Sustainability 16.2 (2011). Wates, Nick. The Community Planning Handbook: How
Appendices Sample questionnaire for skype interviews
11. What advice do you have for other built environment professionals interested in the practice of community architecture? What are the challenges of this field?
1. Please say a little bit about yourself and your passions.
12. Do you have plans/visions for the next years for working in/starting similar kind of development projects?
2. How did you start working as a community architect, what were/ are your motivations to apply your skills as an architect to address poverty?
13. Do you think gender dynamics has an important role to play in the evolution of pro-poor community architecture? If so, how is it important in the community level and in the professional field?
3. How did you start working for this particular project (PPSIP)? When and why/how did you end working for this project? 4. Could you please discuss about the major actors/ stake holders whose ideas/ expertise were crucial for this project? 5. How was your work experience and how it helped/ affected your career/personal goals? 6. How was your experience of working with the communities? What /were are their strengths/ weaknesses as communities that is significant for a project like this? 7. What are some issues/processes that if re-thought or re-formulated, would make this project more successful? 8. How do you compare this experience to your previous/other experiences in such development projects/ initiatives? 9. What challenges have you faced as an architect for this project, and how have you overcome them? 10. I assume that an architect has to act as a mediator and to some extent an activist while working in these kind of projects. Can you share your own insights/ experience about this?
14. How do you think the pedagogy of Architecture Studies in Bangladesh can inspire in present and future, to shape the practice of pro-poor/community architecture? Can you reflect on your own education and express how it helped you in choosing to work as a community architect?
Interview with Pulin Roy Pulin Roy works in the JBM project as a workshop facilitator. He is jokingly called the “meeting man” by the group for his ability to run workshops and meetings with spontaneity and liveliness. The interview took place on 3rd Feb, 2016 in the JBM community center in the form of casual discussion during a break between mapping sessions. The objective was to have a better understanding of how the organization SAFE is working for development in the region.
Please tell me how you started working with SAFE? I have been working in the development sector for quite a long time now. Before joining SAFE, I was working with World Vision of Bangladesh and CFC (Call for Conscience) from 1992 to 1998, a sister concern of SAFE which was started by the elder brother of Ajit Roy, SAFE’s founder. I was facilitating Capacity Building workshops; I was also trained in Accounts management, Child development etc. for working in CFC and World Vision. Later, I joined SAFE eventually. What does CFC work for? CFC used to work for education and primary health. Later, it started a project of improving housing in this region with fund from Australian high Commission. They were supposed to use indigenous materials for building the houses, but Ajit Roy’s brother did not prefer this. So houses were built in traditional method using brick and concrete. Ajit Roy preferred to work with indigenous materials and around 2007 he decided to start his organization SAFE to work for development in his ways. Around this point of time we started to work with British engineer Robert
Hudson and he linked us with a British organization called Engineers without Borders, the time was around 2011. EWB would send paid volunteers from abroad to work with us in our projects. Ajit Roy was eager to work with indigenous materials and the support from EWB made it easier. What kind of projects were SAFE involved with since then? Many different kinds of projects actually, from social awareness projects to building projects. It has supported by different organizations as OXFAM, UNDP, German embassy, Australian High Commission, Engineer without Borders and professionals from around the world, like Australian architect Paul Pholeros. Unfortunately we have lost this great person Paul Pholeros yesterday. Very recently he had donated 8-12 lakh BDT through his organization Health Habitat and started a project of village wide sanitary toilet building; a number of these toilet have already been built and many more were to be completed when he would come back in November this year. An interesting aspect of these toilets are that each toilet is built with a compact budget of 1lakh 65 thousand BDT and the waste water directly goes to a garden behind the house and it is used as fertilizer for the plants. Another significant project called “Material Support Project” was supported by German Embassy in which we made 30 houses with treated bamboo. In this project we see what the household needs to build a new house or repair an old one, them provide the necessary building material and labor as well. We used this support to do a plantation project as well. We planted around 3000 trees by the roads and gave plants to school children to bring to their homes, one plant per child. We started the community-led infrastructure development project at JBM last year with the help of a new donor organization called AzuKo. Previously in 2010 we built 10 mud houses with primarily the financial support of UNDP, a few days later UNDP disagreed to donate more and then we managed to get support from Abonee’s friend
Khaled. When the first phase project received the Berger Young Architect award, the award money was given to the community and they used it for plantation; this was an inspiration to start the 2nd phase of the project. SAFE registered as an NGO in 2007 and had applied a few days ago for Social Welfare Registration to the NGO Bureau. This will allow us to complete projects of bigger scale. Report: Need Assessment Workshop, JBM, Dinajpur
needs and aspirations, and finally with voting we could have some concrete result. 7 out 11 committee members were present in the workshop. Following an ice-breaking session with singing and dancing, the committee members engaged in a discussion with Pulin about what is “Need” and “Development” for them. The main idea from the committee was that “need” for them in this context is what they require after food and shelter, things what they require for improvement of their environment; and development is transcendence to a better state from the previous state. The summary of problems discussed in this session are as following: 1. The common toilets have to be repaired, because toilet waste do not properly pass down the pipes and it is very smelly. 2. The common drain for storm water is also not working properly because the inhabitants throw garbage in it. Some people clean their part of the drain and throw again the garbage in another part of the drain. 3. The plinth levels of the houses are sometimes too low and get flooded in the rainy season.
The Need Assessment Workshop took place on 12th Feb, 2016 in the Community Center at JBM site. The objective was to decide with the committee a number of urgent infrastructure problem that the project will aim to solve. Through focus group discussion and presentations, at the end of the workshop the committee decided on three urgent needs: 1. Repairing the toilets 2. Repairing the drain 3. Upgrading the road (drainage). This workshop was practically a continuation of the Community Visioning workshop, but instead of the whole community taking part it was that only the representative committee who represented the whole community’s
4. Some people (e.g. Rajobala and Bhogoboti) have their houses very close to the toilet. That makes them more vulnerable to bad smell and unhealthy conditions. 5. The municipality comes to clean the waste tank of the common toilet with pump, but because the road is too narrow, the car cannot go near the toilet, and the pipe is not long enough to clean the waste efficiently. 6. The municipality cleans the drain sometimes, but they leave the garbage on the road after cleaning.
The committee was divided into two groups and were asked to reflect on their problems and needs based on the following questions: What asset/resource do we need?
Cooking accessories for social events, e.g. big pots
Group 02 (all male group):
Why do we need it?
1. The surface level of the drains have to be corrected, there have to be more slabs.
What is already there (that can be built upon)?
2. Broken septic tanks have to be repaired
How should it be developed?
3. The spaces for tube wells have to be finished, the drains have to be covered
The two groups listed out the problems and aspirations and presented them afterwards. The summary of the posters they produced are the following:
4. We need sitting space for children (chairs?) in community school.
Group 01 (all female group):
5. There are plants but we need help to maintain or grow, good fences are necessary.
Group members were Rajobala, Dipa, Bhogoboti and Hena; assisted by Farah. They named their group as â€œKrishnokoliâ€?. 1. The road has to be sloped so water is not clogged in the rainy season. 2. Community people are not conscious of using assets properly, this is the one of the major problems. 3.
Water is not drained properly.
4. The rest of the drain should be covered with good slabs so that people cannot throw garbage in it. 5.
The tube well drains should be covered with net.
6. The waste from septic tanks are sometimes pumped out by municipality. But it overflows often. 7.
Vocational training for school drop-out boys.
First aid boxes.
Recreational facilities for children
6. The municipality cleans the drain from time to time but leaves the garbage on the road, a small van will be put in the empty space near the common toilet, and used to carry the garbage to a further point. The questions and concerns raised the presentation sessions are summarized below: 1.
Who will manage the small van?
2. We have to decide it with the community through meetings. 3. The van might cause the environment to deteriorate further if everyone starts dumping garbage in it. After the presentation, both groups were asked to select three/four most important development issues from their panels. The common problems that were decided most important to repair/develop road, common toilet, drain and houses.
The workshop ended with informal discussions. When Apu raised concern about the missing participants, the committee assured that everyone will vote for toilet as a first priority because it is in a very bad state. Masud said, even if the other four people were present the voting results would be the same because majority of people chose the same options. The meeting ended with comments from the facilitator that the whole committee should be present in the next workshops, as the committee itself has decided strict rules about presence. If all committee members were present, the final voting results would be still same, but the score might have been different and that might have showed a different ratio of preferences. The committee is very aware of the infrastructure problems and are enthusiastic in finding the way forward to solve these. This will hopefully help to take the project forward very fast. Besides the severe problems of current infrastructure assets, the committeeâ€™s main concern was management of the infrastructure among the community.
Rapid urbanization has put significant strain on cities and towns of Bangladesh. Housing is predominantly developed by the private market in...
Published on Aug 31, 2016
Rapid urbanization has put significant strain on cities and towns of Bangladesh. Housing is predominantly developed by the private market in...